If you’ve been laid-off or work from home due to Covid-19, you no longer have a grueling commute to face every day. Not spending hours stuck in traffic is one of the few positive changes thanks to coronavirus. But you’re probably concerned about another kind of traffic — your broadband internet connection. Spending more time at home means spending more time online. And that means having a reliable broadband internet service.
The coronavirus pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives. When you’re unemployed, trying to make ends meet while claiming welfare is a daily challenge. But it’s a no-brainer what to do when there’s a choice of paying for broadband or buying groceries — we all have to eat. However, having an excellent broadband internet service is also essential during these times. Being online can help find new work, claim for benefits, or keep the kids entertained when they’re cooped up all day.
Having superfast broadband is even more critical if you’re working from home. You don’t want the kid’s Netflix show to slow down your internet connection so much that you can’t video call your boss.
The HEROES Act proposes making fast broadband available to all. Under the proposals, households with a furloughed worker or someone who’s laid off would get $50 in broadband internet service credits.
This article examines how the scheme of giving households $50 in credits to pay for broadband internet would work. You’ll also find out how you could qualify for the broadband credits.
For more information on the proposed second stimulus package, please read this article on everything you need to know about the HEROES Act.
Broadband Use During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Staying connected to family, friends, and work colleagues has never been more critical. Many people have turned to video conferencing apps to stay connected. Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Duo, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, are all now household names. Chances are you’ve used at least one of them since the Covid-19 lockdown started.
According to recent statistics, internet use has shot up during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, internet usage in the US surged by over 40% in March 2020 compared to January. The jump was due to people working from home, online gaming, video streaming, and social media.
The devastating impact of Covid-19 has shown that every household should have a reliable internet connection. Apart from needing superfast broadband to work from home, kids rely on the internet for homeschooling during the pandemic. So, if the internet is unavailable because mom or dad can’t afford it, kids will lose out on education.
HEROES Proposes $50 Broadband Internet Service Credits
The HEROES Act is a second round of stimulus packages to help limit the financial devastation that Covid-19 has caused. Ensuring that everyone has access to broadband is one of the issues the new bill addresses. The official name for the internet stimulus package is the Emergency Benefit for Broadband Service. In the proposed $3 trillion bill, $4 billion is set aside for broadband subsidies to affected households.
Who would be eligible for getting cash to pay for broadband services?
According to the bill, only households where someone has become jobless or on furlough because of Covid-19 would qualify. These households would receive $50 to pay for broadband internet services.
But there’s more to the HEROES Act than just giving $50 to furloughed workers to pay internet service provider bills. Folks on low-income would also get some broadband assistance under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline program. If you’re financially struggling because of low wages, your internet service provider must lift the data and minutes cap on your phone and internet services.
There’s another way the HEROES Act helps protect internet connectivity for everyone. The bill proposes a moratorium on cutting internet connections due to non-payment. Also, your internet services provider can’t slap penalties or late fees on your bill if your payments are late or you’ve missed them altogether.
Other Ways HEROES Will Boost Broadband Internet Services
Giving eligible households $50 a month to cover the cost of broadband will help millions of people get online. But with more people accessing digital services, there is much to do to boost infrastructure and expand digital services. Here are some other ways the HEROES Act aims to address problems with internet access.
Expand rural broadband networks
Although most of us take access to the internet for granted, millions of Americans don’t have any access to broadband — even if they could pay for it. According to official figures, around 18 million folks in the US can’t get broadband at home.
The HEROES Act proposes funding to expand broadband access to rural communities. This expansion would require the FCC to produce a digital map that shows areas where access to broadband needs extended.
Better broadband and digital services to improve distance education
During the coronavirus outbreak, most parents have taken on a new role as the school teacher. Never in history have so many school kids been learning at home rather than in the classroom. Of course, low-income families are the hardest hit. Paying for reliable broadband is expensive — not to mention buying tablets or computers.
Under the HEROES Act, extra funding will be available to help households without internet access benefit from distance learning. This extra cash could help people buy laptops, tablets, routers, or modems. Training would also be available to help train teachers on how to use technology to teach in a virtual classroom.
Develop better broadband for healthcare
Temporary funding from the HEROES Act would also support medical facilities to provide more telehealth services. The extra cash would be made available for rural hospitals, as well as nonprofit and public hospitals.
Broadband Internet Service Credits
One of the goals of the HEROES Act is to keep furloughed and jobless Americans online during this crisis. According to reports, the Senate will debate the bill in late June or early July. If the senators pass the bill, every eligible household will receive $50 in credits to help pay for broadband internet services.