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Federal program will provide low-income Hawaii residents with broadband subsidies

Low-income Hawaii residents will be eligible to receive federal subsidies for internet service and the purchase of new laptops, desktops and tablets beginning May 12 under a federal program aimed at helping households struggling to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State officials are encouraging residents to apply as quickly as possible once applications become available as the federal pot of money is limited to $3.2 billion and Hawaii will be competing with other states to tap into the discounts.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 for monthly broadband service. Residents on Hawaiian Home Lands are eligible for an enhanced benefit of up to $75. Households can also receive a discount of up to $100 for computers or tablets. Households are limited to receiving one monthly service discount and one discounted device.

Households are eligible to apply if one member of the household already qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Lifeline, a federal program that also provides communications subsidies for low-income households. Households are also eligible to apply if they receive free or reduced-price school breakfasts or lunches, or lost their job and substantial income during the pandemic.

“If you have been struggling and you have trouble paying for internet services this is a perfect opportunity for you to get assistance from the federal government,” said Gov. David Ige, during a press conference today. “I do want to note that funding is limited and certainly we would encourage everyone to apply as soon as possible.”

An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 residents qualify for the broadband benefit, said Burt Lum, the broadband strategy officer for the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, during a press conference on Wednesday.

Lum didn’t have an estimate on how many Hawaii residents might end up benefiting from the subsidies given the limited amount of funding, but said the benefit likely won’t extend beyond four to six months.

Residents will have three ways of applying for the program beginning May 12:

– They can apply online at GetEmergencyBroadband.org

– They can apply through their internet service provider. Participating companies include:

  • American Broadband and Telecommunications Company
  • AT&T
  • Charter Spectrum
  • Cricket Wireless
  • Hawaii Dialogix Telecom
  • Hawaiian Telcom
  • Selectel Wireless
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

– They can call 833-511-0311 and request a mail-in application. The application and proof of eligibility must be mailed to: Emergency Broadband Support Center, P.O. Box 7081 London, KY 40742

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