The U.S. Department of Education today launched a major outreach campaign to millions of students who are now eligible for a monthly discount on broadband internet service under a temporary program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The campaign will inform millions of families with children participating in the free or reduced-price lunch or school breakfast program, and 6.5 million Pell Grant recipients that they are now eligible for the discount of up to $50 per month. Eligible households on qualifying Tribal lands can receive a discount of up to $75 per month.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified issues of internet access and affordability for both K-12 students and college students, particularly students of color, students in rural or tribal communities, and students from low-income families,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We know that the quality of home internet access has an impact on student success, and that students without robust internet access and reliable devices struggled more with the transition to remote learning this past year. This campaign will not only keep more of America’s students connected and learning, but will help address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. As we recover from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to rebuild our education system back better than it was before, and providing reliable, affordable internet access to more students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic is one way we can make sure all students are set up for success.”
Households with a child who has received approval for benefits under the under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the School Breakfast Program (SBP), including a child that attends a school participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years are now eligible for the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program). Pell Grant recipients, who are usually undergraduates with exceptional financial need, also qualify for the FCC’s EBB Program to help pursue postsecondary education if they received their grant during the 2020-2021 award year.
The temporary program provides a monthly discount of up to $50 per month on broadband service and associated equipment (a modem, for example) for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Each participating household may also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for one connected device—a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer—where available from a participating broadband provider, as long as the household contributes between $10 and $50 towards the cost of the device.
Eligible families of K-12 students and eligible Pell Grant recipients can apply for the discount online, via mail, or through a participating service provider. Eligible households can find participating internet service providers in their area by entering their zip code into the Companies Near Me tool.
“It’s more apparent than ever that broadband is no longer nice-to-have. It’s need-to-have. For everyone, everywhere,” said acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic required millions of families and students to shift to remote learning. These students, their families, and their teachers worked hard to make remote learning a reality. But this crisis highlighted like never before that the virtual classroom was closed to millions of students without reliable internet access at home – with students of color and low-income families hit the hardest. And that’s simply unacceptable. I’m proud to partner with Secretary Cardona and the Department of Education to help get the word out about the FCC’s newest program to help families struggling with digital disconnection and provide them support.”
The Education Department is reaching out directly to approximately 6.5 million Pell Grant recipients to inform them that they may be eligible for the discount. The Department is also reaching out to CEP schools and districts to inform them that they or their students may be eligible for the internet access program and share information on how to apply. Additionally, the Department is working with the FCC to develop materials to support schools, districts, and postsecondary schools in spreading the word about the program to eligible students and families. As trusted community members, schools, districts, and postsecondary schools are critical outreach partners. In addition to conducting EBB Program outreach to eligible students and families, schools can take steps to help eligible students and families navigate the sign-up process, including:
- Using the outreach toolkit materials to inform eligible students and families about the Emergency Broadband Benefit. The toolkit and other consumer materials can be found at fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit. Outreach resources for K-12 schools and districts can be found at https://tech.ed.gov/broadband/ebb/.
- Creating an outreach team or partnering with a trusted community-based organization to spread the word and help eligible students and families navigate the sign-up process.
- Helping eligible students and families use the Companies Near Me tool to identify participating providers.
- Organizing a provider fair so that students and families can compare and ask questions about the available internet service plans offered by participating local providers.
Today’s announcement is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader commitment to providing support and resources to students and communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, expand access to broadband, and build back better. The American Rescue Plan provides resources states and schools districts can use to close the digital divide, for example by purchasing laptops and wi-fi hotspots. The Department has also provided direct support to students through the American Rescue Plan, including informing more students of expanded eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the pandemic. President Biden has also proposed historic investments in the American Jobs Plan to reach 100 coverage of high-speed, reliable, broadband internet, and he has proposed in the American Families Plan to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by about $1,400.