The internet is how we’ve stayed connected during the pandemic, but not everyone can afford online access. To help bridge the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission recently launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit program providing eligible households with a $50 discount towards internet service, $75 if you live on tribal lands. The sooner you sign up, the longer you’ll have the incentive. The end date is whenever funds run out. In the meantime, groups like MediaJustice are pushing for a long-term program. MediaJustice’s Brandon Forester, national organizer for internet rights and platform accountability, explains why Internet is essential in WMAR2 Baltimore.
“It’s literally a life or death matter. It’s access to justice, it’s access to not getting evicted from your home, it’s access to being able to get a vaccine, to connect with your family…. Folks who experienced economic hardship, college students or households that have a student with a Pell Grant. Free and reduced school lunch, folks who are eligible, I understand in Baltimore the whole city is eligible, so everyone who has a student enrolled in Baltimore City schools is eligible. We expect it to last for several months, it’s bound by funding, which has $3.2 billion in funding…Ultimately, we need to do this for harm reduction, make sure folks can get online right now in 2021, but we also, moving towards the future, need to make sure there’s robust competition so that the providers we have now, these big cable companies, actually feel an incentive and pressure to lower their prices in the long run.”Brandon Forester via WMAR2 Baltimore