A new COVID-19 relief initiative is kicking off: As of Wednesday, people can start applying for the emergency broadband benefit.
The fund was created to help people afford home internet. If you qualify, it could reduce your internet bill by $10 to $50 a month. It also includes a one-time, $100 discount on an electronic device like a computer, laptop or tablet.
There are a lot of different ways families are eligible, based on income and those on other federal benefits, like free or reduced school lunches, SNAP or housing assistance. There are more ways to qualify laid out at GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
The assistance comes at a critical moment for digital divide.
“Whether it is a, you know, permanent broadband benefit program or a permanent server emergency connectivity fund that's relying on institutions, you know, you want to be able to build a program that actually meets the needs on the ground,” Amina Fazlullah, Director of Equity Policy at Common Sense.
Common Sense believes the pandemic has brought a better understanding of digital divide.
Things like what internet speed and data allow you to have a successful, uninterrupted learning experience at home. About one in three K-12 students don't have sufficient internet or devices, or no internet at all.
But they applaud schools for what they did during the pandemic to get kids online.
“And so, you know, they've really dug into doing digital needs assessments. They have dug into figuring out what the sort of suite of options are for all of their community members, because not one provider serves,” said Fazlullah. “Everybody in the school district right, there's an overlay of different providers.”
Fazlullah believes schools should continue their work by doing things like regular digital needs assessments of all students. That's because the divide doesn't stop once schools open in person.
“You know, opportunities around individualized tutoring, which is an important thing to consider, now that we understand that there's been incredible amounts of pandemic induced learning loss,” said Fazlullah.
Common Sense reminded us nearly 400,000 teachers also lack adequate home internet or devices.