En español | A new program operated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aimed at keeping Americans connected online during the pandemic can help some veterans, survivors and active military personnel purchase computers and pay for monthly high-speed internet service.
The $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program was created as part of the country's third stimulus legislation to temporarily ease the costs associated with high-speed internet for low-income households amid the COVID-19 emergency. The program, which launches May 12, offers up to $50 off monthly phone or internet bills. Some households may also be eligible for a one-time discount up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. There are additional benefits for people living on tribal lands.
The FCC estimates that 14 million Americans — and 22 percent of those 65 and older — don't have access to a high-speed internet connection.
How veterans, military can qualify for internet discounts
Participants in the FCC's Lifeline program automatically qualify for the new EBB program. The Lifeline program already offers up to a $9.25 discount off monthly phone or internet bills to low-income households and those enrolled in certain public assistance programs, including veterans and survivors who receive pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you are already enrolled in the Lifeline program, you don't need to apply again for EBB benefits. Instead, contact the provider applying the Lifeline discount to your existing service. You may also contact a different participating internet provider to apply the discount to another service. You can receive the Lifeline discount and the new EBB discount at the same time. You can find a list of companies that offer Lifeline near you here.
Veterans, survivors and military who are not enrolled in Lifeline may be eligible for EBB benefits through other means if they or someone in their household:
- Has an income that's 135 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines
- Already receives a low-income discount from their internet service provider
- Is enrolled in a federal assistance program such as SNAP, SSI or Medicaid
- Receives free or reduced-price lunch at school
- Received a Pell Grant for college in the current award year
- Lost a job and saw a substantial decrease in income since Feb. 29, 2020
Those who aren't enrolled in Lifeline can apply for the program through GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
The EBB program will end when the money is spent or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares the end of the federal emergency surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Internet providers will have to notify participants about the last date of the discount, once the federal money runs out, to help with a potential transition to another program.
Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency's Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.