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FCC looking to offset costs of broadband internet for families

This school year, many school divisions in the Valley set up hot spots for students who were...
This school year, many school divisions in the Valley set up hot spots for students who were learning virtually.(WHSV)
Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 3:12 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - As the school year begins to wind down and some households’ need for broadband internet begins to increase, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping lower the cost of high-speed internet for families.

This academic year, school divisions around the Valley, including Rockingham County Public Schools (RCPS), delivered internet access to students enrolled in virtual learning. The federal government is starting a program to hopefully extend the short-term solution by giving families up to $50 per month who are in need of internet.

“As those things end, families are still going to have a need for high-speed internet, and it’s just not for school or for learning,” Kevin Perkins, director of technology for RCPS, said. “It might be used for telemedicine, shopping or looking for employment.”

A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program.
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The benefit also provides up to a $100 per household discount toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop or tablet if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase through a participating broadband provider.

This program is intended for anyone in need of internet access — not just students.

Those in need of internet access can begin to apply for the service starting May 12 by clicking here.

The $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program will run until the pandemic is over or once funding runs out.

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