Broadband internet

New U.S. Census Bureau data released earlier this month says New Mexico is among the least connected states to broadband in the nation. Shutterstock

To help residents across the state gain affordable access to broadband connectivity, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, is encouraging eligible New Mexicans and Tribal residents to apply for consumer discounts through the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for families and students," said Heinrich. "We must ensure all New Mexicans have access to broadband services, and this FCC program is a great way to help eligible applicants pay for the services they need. I will continue fighting to ensure every family and child in New Mexico, no matter where they live or go to school, has the digital capabilities and resources they need to succeed in the 21st century."

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide discounts on broadband service and computer hardware, tapping $3.2 billion in federal funding. Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program will provide assistance until the funds are depleted, or until six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.

Eligible households will see a discount on their broadband bill of up to $50 per month, or $75 per month on qualifying Tribal lands. They will also be eligible for a one-time discount of up to $100 for laptop, desktop or tablet purchases from participating providers.

To apply for the discounts, households can use their existing assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline or reduced-price school meal programs. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is also available to households eligible for a broadband provider's existing relief program, to Federal Pell Grant recipients, and to low-income households who suffered a significant loss in income during the pandemic due to job loss or furlough.

For its part, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative has been advertising to its members to try to get the word out about the program, saying that most households receive free lunch through their school districts and would therefore be eligible for the FCC broadband assistance.

For more information, visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.

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