Congress’ Stimulus Package to Set Aside $7 Billion for Broadband

Money will be made available to individuals and families who cannot readily afford essential internet connections.

  • United States Congress

WASHINGTON – The House and Senate’s plan to pass a $900-billion stimulus package to provide relief for people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic is passed it will include $7 billion for broadband.

Congress’ stimulus agreement announced Sunday evening will also include $3.2 billion for an emergency-broadband benefit that will be available to individuals and families who cannot readily afford essential internet connections, and up to $1.3 billion for broadband connectivity on tribal lands and in communities surrounding historically Black colleges and universities.

Under the $3.2-billion program, low-income people who are already eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline program will be eligible for a benefit of up to $50 per month. That benefit will also be available to families that are eligible for free school lunches, college Pell Grant recipients, and people who have lost jobs or been laid off at any point since this economic crisis began.

The final legislation does not include other important broadband measures the House first passed in May as part of the HEROES Act. It also leaves out measures discussed in negotiations last week by the bipartisan group of senators who helped restart stimulus negotiations. Yet the broad eligibility criteria for the broadband benefit will provide tremendous assistance to everyone who needs help to get connected, including families with students learning at home during the pandemic.

Matt Wood, Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel, praised Congress’s actions.

“The stimulus bill’s broadband benefit is a historic achievement,” Wood said in a prepared statement. “It will connect tens of millions of people and families to the high-speed home-internet service they need to safely access remote health care, school and jobs, as well as the news and virtual family gatherings that are so crucial during this worsening pandemic.”

Wood added that Congress could help enhance broadband affordability.

“This benefit is a much-needed response to the lack of affordable broadband choices, which is the primary factor driving the U.S. digital divide,” he said. “The lack of affordable options is a huge barrier to universal adoption; it gets far less attention than problems like rural deployment. But the inability to pay for services that are already available in their neighborhoods is the biggest reason why nearly 80 million people lack adequate home internet — including 30 percent of Black people, 30 percent of Latinx people and 34 percent of Indigenous people in the United States.”

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