Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced a new program to assist households in paying their internet bills. The new emergency broadband relief package offers a $75 subsidy on internet bills to all who live on Tribal lands and qualify.
Per the FCC’s guidelines, all Alaskans live on Tribal lands and are authorized for a higher subsidy than most people in the lower 48. To receive the subsidy, you must first meet income qualifications. One way to qualify is to make less than 135% of Alaska’s Federal Poverty guidelines. That’s less than 21,722 per year for a one-person household. The numbers go up with each additional household member.
Another way to qualify is if your income decreased last year due to the pandemic, and you made under $99,000 as a single filer or $198,000 as joint filers. According to FCC spokesperson Paloma Perez, having filed for unemployment insurance benefits may also qualify you as long as you still lost income overall since Feb 29, 2020.
“As long as you have some way to prove you either tried to apply for unemployment assistance, you received a furlough notice, or did actually receive some type of unemployment assistance, all of that can be used as proof that you lost a substantial amount of income,” said Perez.
What does not qualify you is if you’ve consistently made less than $99,000 per year, but have not lost income. The amount of unemployment insurance received does count towards total income, and those who have lost income due to lack of seasonal employment because of the pandemic are also eligible.
You can also qualify for the internet subsidy if you or a household member is approved for federal assistance programs including SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline, or free or reduced-price school lunch. Although some school districts may offer free lunch for all students, you need to meet the free lunch requirement on your own to be eligible for the internet subsidy. Mothers on WIC cannot qualify for the subsidy based on WIC assistance alone. To check if you qualify, you can fill out this worksheet before you apply.
The $75 monthly internet subsidy will be applied to each GCI bill from when you apply until when the program funding dries up, or until 6 months after the World Health Organization declares an end to the pandemic. Perez said that subsidies cannot be applied retroactively.
“That's one of the reasons we encourage folks to sign up as soon as they can. Because once you are enrolled, that's when you start taking advantage of the $75 discount every month,” said Perez.
To request a mail-in application for the internet subsidy, call 833-511-0311 or apply online at getemergencybroadband.org. According to the FCC website, you can apply directly through your service provider, but a spokesperson for GCI said that the company will just reroute you to the FCC’s application.