MILWAUKEE - The COVID pandemic has more Wisconsinites using the internet on a daily basis, and you might be able to get the government to pay your internet bill for a few months.
As more become accustomed to working or schooling from home, the federal government is offering $50 a month to families to pay for their internet connection.
"It’s intended to get more people on the internet," said Scott Vander Sanden, AT&T Wisconsin president. "What it does for eligible participants or customers is that they would get either a $50 credit on their monthly service bill or $75 if they’re in tribal served areas."
$3.2 billion was set aside to fund what's called the Emergency Broadband Benefits Program. It will continue for six months after the pandemic is over or until funds run out.
(Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
"If you think you’re eligible, and there are some standards based on income and other criteria, you have to go to the FCC website and find out," said Vander Sanden. "They will, in essence, qualify you."
The program rolled out March 12 and the FCC said Thursday, May 20 more than 1 million households enrolled.
"There was clearly a need, and this goes at the issue of affordability for folks and it starts to address that a little bit," said Vander Sanden.
Vander Sanden said usage on their network is way up with many other providers also part of the program.
"It applies to our landline service, our wireless service, be it AT&T or Cricket provided, so for AT&T, those are the ways you can access this program," he said.
Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount on a laptop, desktop or tablet purchase.
Who is eligible?
A household is eligible if a member of the household meets 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 Lifeline;
- 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 due to 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; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
How to apply
There are three ways for eligible households to apply:
- Contact your preferred participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process.
- Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you.
- Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to:
Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742