The acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced a proposal to use $ 3.2 billion in emergency funding to heavily subsidize broadband service to millions of households to help narrow the digital divide that low-income families feel during the period Pandemic has punished.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced that under her proposal, qualified households would receive discounts of $ 50 per month for high-speed internet services. The discount would be $ 75 for households in tribal areas. Mrs Rosenworcel sent the proposal to the other three Commissioners for a vote but did not indicate when that vote would take place for the program known as the “program” Broadband emergency service.

Congress allocated the money last December under a Covid-19 relief bill. The money will be available to households 135 percent or more above the poverty line who qualify for free and discounted school lunches or who have seen significant income losses since February 29, 2020.

At least 14.5 million households do not have access to high-speed internet. For many families, especially in urban and suburban areas, the high cost of broadband has prevented them from using the service. The consequences of the digital divide during the pandemic were serious. Children were cut off from online learning, and adults could not work from home or find important health information.

“Nobody should have to decide whether to pay their internet bills or put food on the table,” Ms. Rosenworcel said in a statement. “With Emergency Broadband Benefit, we have a new way for households to access virtual learning, for patients to connect with telemedicine providers, and for those struggling with this pandemic to learn new online skills and get their next job to search.”

The digital divide was one of the most persistent problems facing the federal government.
Although Internet service providers receive over $ 8 billion in federal grants each year to bring broadband to every American home, adoption and access rates have improved over time. Broadband cards, for example, notoriously count over how many households have access to the service. If an Internet service provider like Verizon or Comcast only hits one house in a census block, the entire block will be shown connected on federal maps – even if in reality not all houses get the broadband option.

Last week, Ms. Rosenworcel announced a task force to investigate the agency’s tracking of broadband access data.

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