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May 14, 2021

Need help paying for internet access? There’s a program for that

Through a new federal program, some people can get a monthly discount off the cost of broadband service.

Enrollment in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program started Wednesday at https://getemergencybroadband.org/.

“Families in every corner of the country have been struggling to get online throughout this pandemic,” Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a prepared statement. “For those families, we now say help is around the corner.”

According to the FCC, the program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.

It also will provide eligible households with a one-time discount of up to $100 on the purchase of a computer or tablet from participating providers.

Under the law, the program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with children who receive free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the past year.

Antietam Broadband, which serves Hagerstown, will be a provider under the program, company President Brian Lynch said Thursday. The company was awaiting formal certification, which he expects will arrive in a few days.

Two of the area’s federal lawmakers issued statements of support for the $3.2 billion program, which was created as part of the final omnibus appropriations bill in December.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. David Trone, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, both called broadband access a “necessity,”

“Expanding broadband access to all West Virginians continues to be a top priority for me, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic that has shone a light on the necessity of broadband access in the 21st century. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will help West Virginians get connected during the pandemic so they can complete their homework, apply for jobs, and attend telehealth appointments,” Manchin said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-6th, is shown in this file photo talking with Washington County Public Schools officials about helping students rebound from the COVID-91 pandemic.

“The pandemic has highlighted how access to high-speed internet is a necessity — not a luxury — for American workers, students, and families. … Everyone regardless of socioeconomic status should have access to reliable internet, and I will continue to work towards improving broadband affordability in Congress,” Trone said in a separate release.