“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” Ms. Rosenworcel said in a statement. “It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning.”
Eligible recipients include families with children on free or reduced lunch programs, Pell grant recipients and individuals who have lost jobs or seen their income fall in the past year.
The digital divide has been among the most persistent problems for telecommunications policymakers. More than $8 billion in federal funding is allocated each year to the problem. Much of that is allocated to internet service providers to bring service to rural and other underserved areas.
There are many challenges. Broadband maps, for instance, notoriously overcount how many households have access. If an internet service provider such as Charter or AT&T reaches just one home in a census block, the entire block appears connected on federal maps, even when all homes aren’t given the option of broadband.
Ms. Rosenworcel announced the formation of a task force to study the agency’s tracking of broadband access data.