Gov. Tony Evers and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) are urging eligible Wisconsin residents to apply for the Federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program for Wisconsin households struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic.
The benefit offered through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will provide a temporary discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. The number of people in the state that could be eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit is about 1,500,000 people or 300,000 households.
Participating broadband providers will receive the money directly from the program for providing service to an eligible household, and consumers will see the discount applied to their bills. Eligible households can also receive a one-time device benefit of a laptop, desktop, or tablet from participating providers for a co-pay of up to $50. The program has an expected start date of April 26 and ends six months after the public health emergency is lifted or when the money is depleted. This benefit program is funded with $3.2 billion through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
Eligible households for the benefit include a household that meets any of the following criteria:
- A household’s income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of that size;
- At least one person in the household must receive benefits from one of the following federal assistance programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit;
- At least one person in the household is in the free and reduced-price lunch program or the school breakfast program (including attending a Community Eligibility Provision school);
- At least one person in the household has been laid off or furloughed since February 29, 2020 and the household has an income of less than $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
- At least one person in the household has received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
- At least one person in the household can participate in their broadband provider’s existing low-income or COVID–19 program.
- If a household is located on Tribal lands, it is eligible if at least one person in the household participates in Bureau of Indian Affairs general assistance, Tribally administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard), or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
According to the FCC, 394,000 Wisconsinites lack access to high-speed internet service. The state ranks 36th nationwide in terms of accessibility in rural areas, which ranges widely across rural Wisconsin.
Check the FCC’s website, www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, regularly for the latest information on the enrollment process. For customers who cannot locate a provider and who do not have access to the FCC’s information online, the PSC’s Internet and Phone Helpline is here to help, at 608.267.3595.
For more information on the Emergency Broadband Benefit visit here.
For a list of providers participating in the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Program visit here. The list will be updated as more providers enroll in the program.