This Interactive Map Shows Just How Awful America’s Internet Is

A map of the U.S. covered in red. The red areas are communities with median broadband speeds below the FFC's recommended benchmark.

Screenshot: NTIA/Gizmodo

Today the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released an interactive map illustrating who doesn’t have access to the FCC’s recommended minimum broadband speeds. Folks, look above: It’s all the red areas.

Advertisement

The “Indicators of Broadband Need” tool lets you apply different filters to a U.S. map based on aggregated data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FCC, internet speed-testing companies M-Lab and Ookla, and Microsoft. The highlighted areas are those with median broadband speeds below the FCC’s recommended benchmark speeds of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload—a standard that many consider to be outdated in the modern area. If you want to feel particularly depressed about the state of infrastructure in this country, you can also toggle on filters to see where underserved areas overlap with high levels of poverty, tribal lands, and communities where more than 25% of households do not have access to broadband, computers, smartphones, or tablets. Having tried all of them, rest assured there’s no scenario where broadband access in the U.S. looks good.

“Broadband is no longer nice to have. It’s need to have. To ensure that every household has the internet access necessary for success in the digital age, we need better ways to accurately measure where high-speed service has reached Americans and where it has not,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in an NTIA press release.

Advertisement

A map of the US showing the overlap between areas where the median speed is below 25/3 Mbps and where 20% or more live below the poverty line.

The pink areas are areas with high levels of poverty. The outline black areas are tribal lands. And, as we noted, the red areas are where the median broadband speeds are below 25/3 Mbps.
Screenshot: NTIA/Gizmodo

The pandemic underscored the importance of fast broadband. According to Pew Research, 53% of Americans said the internet was “essential” during the pandemic for remote work and online learning. The reality is the pandemic shed light on the millions who didn’t have adequate or affordable access to the internet. You’d think that would inspire some legislative initiative. And it has—just not in the way you’d hope, particularly with regard to municipal broadband.

Municipal broadband has been touted as a way to ease the digital divide by providing fast and cheap internet as a public utility. Its detractors, however, argue that it’s an inappropriate use of public funding and that taxpayers get saddled with the cost of maintaining service. In February, House Republicans introduced a bill that would prevent cities nationwide from establishing their own networks if they were in an area served by more than one commercial ISP. Meanwhile, in Ohio, Republicans are pushing to ban municipal broadband for roughly 98% of the state. The amendment in question defines broadband access as 10 Mbps downloads and 1 Mbps uploads—well below the FCC’s benchmark. While those speeds might suffice for casual web browsing for a household of one person, it’s not enough for smooth group Zooms or streaming Netflix.

A zoomed in view of areas in Ohio with inadequate broadband speeds and high levels of poverty.

Seems like a lot of overlap.
Screenshot: NTIA/Gizmodo

Advertisement

Using the NTIA’s map, you can see there’s plenty of counties in Ohio that fall below the 25/3 Mbps standard, and that many of those areas also happen to be in communities where 20% or more of households are below the poverty line. One might say municipal broadband might be a good solution for those folks.

As grim as this looks, all is not completely lost. As part of the American Jobs Plan, President Biden has proposed a $100 billion investment to bring “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American.” But the bill is facing strong opposition from some lawmakers and lobbyists who say it’s bad for competition. The FCC also announced in October that it was planning to set aside $9 billion over the next decade to fund 5G wireless broadband expansion in rural America—though the FCC’s inaccurate service maps are a major hurdle. Others have floated the idea of satellite internet services like Starlink as a potential solution, though that’s also unlikely to bridge the digital divide. OK, so maybe it is pretty grim.

Advertisement

Telecom Companies Win Injunction to Put New York’s Affordable Internet Law on Hold

Broadband network cables

Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP (Getty Images)

In a huge win for internet service providers, a federal judge on Friday granted a preliminary injunction to stall a New York law mandating affordable internet for low-income households.

Advertisement

Lobbying groups representing AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and other telecom companies have fiercely pushed back against the legislation, known as the Affordable Broadband Act, and sued New York shortly after it was signed and passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in April. Initially scheduled to go into effect next week, the bill would require ISPs serving more than 20,000 households to offer two low-cost plans to qualifying customers: one with download speeds of a least 25 Mbps for no more than $15 per month, and another offering download speeds of at least 200 Mbps at no more than $20 monthly. The state’s attorney general would be able to issue penalties to providers of up to $1,000 per violation.

The bill isn’t dead yet, but this eleventh-hour injunction is not a good sign. In his ruling, New York’s Eastern District Judge Dennis R. Hurley described internet access as a “modern necessity.” However, he also agreed with the argument from ISPs that the law is likely to result in “imminent irreparable injury” to their bottom line either from lost revenue or penalty payments.

Three of the companies told the court the law would cut annual net income by at least $1 million each. The bill also mandates that companies promote these new affordable plans to low-income customers, an ad campaign that Verizon estimated would cost between $250,000 and $1 million.

“While a telecommunications giant like Verizon may be able to absorb such a loss, others may not,” Hurley wrote. “The Champlain Telephone Company, for example, ‘estimates that nearly half of its existing broadband customers will qualify for discounted rates,’ with each customer ‘causing a monetary loss.’”

However, state attorneys pushed back that these stats aren’t supported by any financial records. Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said Friday that New York plans to continue defending the bill.

“We always knew big telecom would pull out all the stops to protect their profits at the expense of the New Yorkers who need access to this vital utility the most,” Azzopardi said in a press statement via Axios. “We are going to continue to fight for them.”

Advertisement

Samsung’s New 50-MP Image Sensor Boasts the Smallest Photo Pixels Yet

Illustration for article titled Samsung's New 50-MP Image Sensor Boasts the Smallest Photo Pixels Yet

Screenshot: Samsung

Electronics makers are always trying to miniaturize components whenever they can, and with its new Isocell JN1 sensor, Samsung claims it has created an image sensor with the world’s smallest photo pixels yet.

Advertisement

While sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate advances in sensor tech, the ability for Samsung to cram a 50-MP sensor with photo pixels measuring just 0.64 micrometers into a tiny 1/2.76-inch format is pretty impressive, as it allows devices makers to support higher-resolution photos without taking up additional space inside the phone. And not only does the JN1’s dimensions make the sensor suited for use on either the front or back of a phone, but it’s also 10% thinner.

Samsung says its JN1 sensor also comes with Isocell 2.0 tech, which the company claims improves light sensitivity by around 16%, along with Double Super PD autofocus that features special oval-shaped micro-lenses fitted onto pairs of nearby pixels to quickly detect changes in phases. Samsung says this allows the JN1 to deliver the same speedy autofocus performance compared to previous-gen sensors with 60% less light.

Now when it comes to low-light photography, smaller photo pixels typically aren’t a good thing, as a smaller sensor/pixel catches less light often resulting in lower quality and grainer images. However, by using quad pixel-binning on the JN1, Samsung can combine four nearby 0.64 micrometer pixels into one large 1.28-micrometer pixel in low-light to help increase overall light sensitivity. That said, like other sensors that use pixel-binning in low light, this process does result in a lower resolution 12.5-MP photos, down from its usual 50-MP shots.

On top of that, Samsung’s says the JN1 also has Smart-ISO tech—which can adjust the sensor’s conversion gain depending on the environment. In bright light, the Low ISO mode helps preserve highlights and details in bright spots. In darker environments, the High ISO mode reduces noise and improves general low-light performance.

Illustration for article titled Samsung's New 50-MP Image Sensor Boasts the Smallest Photo Pixels Yet

Screenshot: Samsung

But perhaps the most promising thing about the JN1 is that Samsung says it’s already in mass production, which means we might see Samsung’s tiny 50-MP image sensor appear on retail devices before the end of the year.

How One Fastly Customer Broke the Internet

Illustration for article titled How One Fastly Customer Broke the Internet

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos (Getty Images)

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, a tech vendor named Fastly experienced a major outage that inadvertently broke some of the biggest sites on the web. And now, we know why. In a blog post published late yesterday, Fastly engineering VP Nick Rockwell explained the company “experienced a global outage due to an undiscovered software bug,” that surfaced when a single customer just… reconfigured his internet connection.

Advertisement

Per Rockwell’s blog, Fastly issued a software update in mid-May that accidentally came pre-packaged with the bug that could be triggered under specific circumstances. In the early morning hours on June 8th, one of Fastly’s customers unwittingly put these circumstances into motion while rejiggering their internet connection via a “valid configuration change.” Before they knew it, 85% of Fastly’s network started returning errors, sites stopped loading, and global pandemonium ensued.

Rockwell explained that Fastly noticed the global outage “within one minute,” and then made quick work of patching up the issue. “Within 49 minutes, 95% of our network was operating as normal,” he wrote. “This outage was broad and severe, and we’re truly sorry for the impact to our customers and everyone who relies on them.”

It turns out that’s a lot of people. Along with companies like Cloudflare and Akami, Fastly is one of the so-called “content delivery network” (CDN) giants that hold up vast swaths of the internet by letting sites store their data within their proprietary clouds. Storing data like this doesn’t only mean that content gets to your browser faster, but it also means that more people can access that content at once.

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. But tech hiccups crop up all the time, and CDN’s aren’t immune. Back in 2019, Cloudflare went through a similar outage to the one Fastly went through this week, inadvertently taking platforms like Dropbox, Medium, and Soundcloud along with it. In 2017, a four-hour AWS shortage knocked out sites like Netflix and Spotify. When the handful of tech companies that underpin the internet are just as fallible as, well, literally every other tech company, you have to wonder if that power consolidation is a good thing.

Roku Is Plotting to Take Over Your Smart Home

Don’t touch that dial! Roku is looking to integrate more services into its platform.

Don’t touch that dial! Roku is looking to integrate more services into its platform.
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Roku isn’t exactly a little-known brand, but when it comes to market share and platform dominance, it’s still a David amongst Goliaths like Amazon and Google. However, the streaming company has made some strategic moves lately that indicate it’s attempting a more significant play for space in your home—outside of the living room, where it’s already established on many TVs. 

Advertisement

Roku’s been attempting to lay the groundwork for a new smart home platform for a few years now with several acquisitions and partnerships, but those moves seemed to have led nowhere major—at least not yet. And now a host of new job listings and a new hire has reignited the idea of Roku venturing out beyond home entertainment. It’s unclear exactly how Roku plans to move from TV into the smart home more broadly, but the evidence suggests there are big things in the works that will join Roku’s existing lineup of TVs, set-top boxes, and speakers down the line.

Protocol reported this week on several job listings that support the idea of a Roku-branded smart home effort. The company’s latest hire is a director of product management, Damir Skripic, who is a veteran of Amazon, TP-Link’s Kasa smart home unit, and Netgear’s security arm, Arlo. Before Skripic came to Roku, the job listing for the role mentioned the responsibilities would include “own[ing] the strategy and execution of products and features that connect Roku with home ecosystems more deeply.” The listing also told potential applicants that one of their primary duties would be to develop the company’s “home technology product strategy” and “product roadmap.” Given Skripic’s resume, it’s safe to say that “things that connect” are in his wheelhouse.

Roku is also seeking a senior business development manager to help foster partnerships with smart home hardware manufacturers. The role will “work closely with product, engineering, legal, marketing, and finance teams to drive Roku’s business goals.” Those business goals probably have something to do with Roku looking to solidify (and grow) its 38% of the U.S. market share for its streaming sticks and TVs.

But Roku is doing well precisely because it’s already proved that its streaming TV devices are good. It doesn’t have a track record in the smart home yet. With the active big brands like Google and Amazon dominating the smart home and and backing a new standard called Matter to unite them all, Roku needs to move fast to have any visibility.

It’s more plausible that Roku will strategize around transforming its existing device lineup into connected devices—similar to what Apple has done with the Apple TV, which acts as a hub for HomeKit-compatible devices. It’s a more approachable way of getting consumers on board, and it will help Roku better maintain its standing. The more devices it has in the home, the more profit it makes. Last year, Roku made more money from advertising and other service fees compared to its device business.

In a recent investor conference call, Roku Chief Financial Officer Steve Louden made a particularly timely declaration about the “dynamics” in an ecosystem, pointing to consolidation of services as a way to improve one’s “position” and “heft.” Louden was talking about the consolidation of streaming services for consumers, but growing the company’s “relevance in the ecosystem” could hint at making its devices more capable.

In any ecosystem, you’ve got to figure out like what are the dynamics between partners, right? We’re sort of partners and competitors to different players within the industry. Certainly, yes, consolidation, the reason folks are consolidating in any industry is because they’re trying to improve their position and their heft when they talk to other stakeholders. But for us, I mean, the best thing we can do and what we’ve been very successful at is growing our share and our relevance in the ecosystem, right?

Advertisement

On the surface, last month’s spat between Roku and Google over the renewal of licensing for YouTube TV seemed like pure Silicon Valley theater. But with this new context, it could be construed instead as Roku publicly making itself known as one of the last remaining independent platforms.

Imagine the edge that existing Roku set-top boxes could provide by integrating some of the features that keep people like me glued to Google, like the ability to pipe in security camera footage and voice commands for shuffling through streaming services. If Roku’s end goal is to provide as much value as possible using its existing platform, expanding into the smart home is absolutely the way to go.

Advertisement

E Ink’s New Electronic Paper Screens Come With Built-in Touchscreens, Which Could Make eReaders Cheaper

Illustration for article titled E Ink's New Electronic Paper Screens Come With Built-in Touchscreens, Which Could Make eReaders Cheaper

Image: E Ink

It’s rare to find an ebook reader now that doesn’t use a touchscreen to make navigating its user interface—or just flipping the pages of a digital book—much easier. So, given the demand for that functionality, today E Ink announced a new electronic-ink screen featuring a touch sensor built right in that should improve image quality and help make these devices more affordable.

Advertisement

Even the cheapest, entry-level version of the Amazon Kindle includes a touchscreen, but adding that functionality requires a touch-sensitive panel to be laminated on top of the ePaper display supplied by E Ink. That extra step not only adds more cost to the manufacturing process, the added touch sensor also adds another layer for light to pass through, which can reduce the contrast of the E Ink screen—one of the display technology’s biggest selling points.

undefined

Image: E Ink

Moving forward, companies integrating E Ink’s screens into their devices can opt for the company’s new On-Cell Touch ePaper module which includes a touch-sensitive layer pre-integrated between the electronic ink film and the glowing illuminated panel on top. The all-in-one solution should help reduce the cost of components in a touchscreen e-reader or e-note and simplify manufacturing. E Ink also promises that its integrated touchscreen sensor will improve the contrast ratio of its Carta black and white ePaper screens by up to 30%, while boosting the contrast ratio of its color Kaleido Plus ePaper screens by up to 40%, arguably a much-needed boost for that technology.

The new On-Cell Touch ePaper module could be especially useful for e-note devices like the reMarkable 2 tablet, whose biggest drawback is the lack of an illuminated screen making it hard to use as an e-reader too. Its creators have opted to skip the illumination panel to make the E Ink screen as thin as possible so that the on-screen stylus experience remains as close to the pen-on-paper experience as possible. With all of these layers, including touch and a front light, integrated into the E Ink screen from the get-go, there’s the possibility that future versions of the reMarkable tablet could offer the same excellent digital note-taking experience plus a glowing screen for when that middle of the night inspiration hits.

Update, 12:29 p.m. EST/EDT: We reached out to E Ink for clarifications on the exact functionality of its new On-Cell Touch ePaper module and the company has clarified that at launch it will primarily support finger touches, for devices such as ebook readers. Support for stylus-driven interactions, including note-taking, is possible, but it would require the addition of a pen input layer to the module.

How to Make Sure You’re Streaming in 4K

After going through all the effort of finding a beautiful 4K TV at a ridiculously good price, you’re gonna want to make sure that the content you’re watching on that glorious screen is actually 4K—believe it or not, it doesn’t happen automatically!

So here’s the deal: To take advantage of your ultra high-definition, 3840 x 2160 screen, you really want to watch content that’s made for that resolution. You can obviously still watch HD shows and movies, but that seems like a waste. You upgraded to 4K for a reason, after all.

Advertisement

If you’re streaming from a set-top box, make sure that it supports 4K streaming. Newer ones do, but if you’re unsure, look up your model to check. Also make sure that the device you’re streaming from is plugged into your TV’s dedicated 4K HDMI port, if it has one.

Then you need to check your streaming services. HBO Max just started streaming 4K shows and movies, and if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you actually need to upgrade your plan to watch 4K content.

Advertisement

From there, check the details of each show or movie you want to watch. Older content may not have been upscaled to 4K, and some content may be available to stream for free in HD but cost you money to rent or buy in 4K. (Yeah, it’s annoying.)

Now you’re all set—at least until 8K becomes a thing.

Kobo’s Taking On reMarkable With the Elipsa, a Digital Notebook with a Glowing Screen and eBook Store

Illustration for article titled Kobo's Taking On reMarkable With the Elipsa, a Digital Notebook with a Glowing Screen and eBook Store

Image: Rakuten Kobo

Devices like the reMarkable tablet have been around for about five years now, so Kobo’s Elipsa, a new E Ink-based digital notebook, is a little late to the scene. But the device is bringing a feature that all e-note tablets have been missing so far: a robust, native e-book store, making it great for both taking notes and reading.

Advertisement

At first glance, the Kobo Elipsa looks a lot like the Kobo Forma, which, like the Kindle Oasis, features a thicker bezel on the right side (or left, as either device can be inverted), making it easier to hold and operate single-handed. But where the Kobo Forma boasts an 8-inch E Ink screen, the new Elipsa boosts that to 10.3 inches, with an added layer that allows it to be interacted with using an active stylus. The Elipsa’s larger screen not only makes it better for reading technical documents with illustrations that can’t be easily reformatted for a smaller screen, it also provides more room for annotating docs and ebooks, including the ability to expand the margins so you have more room for markup.

And while the Kobo Forma’s 8-inch screen has a resolution of 1440 × 1920 pixels at 300 ppi, the Elipsa’s 10.3-inch E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen actually pushes slightly less pixels: 1404 x 1872 at 227 ppi. As a result, there may be slightly more aliasing visible on the Elipsa’s screen compared to the Forma, but Kobo’s new e-note also matches the screen specs of the excellent reMarkable 2 tablet, so the slight drop in resolution is far from a dealbreaker.

undefined

Unlike Kobo’s ereaders, which offer a case as a separately purchased accessory, the Elipsa includes a removable sleep cover with integrated stylus storage.
Image: Rakuten Kobo

When compared head-to-head with the reMarkable 2 tablet, the Kobo Elipsa promises quicker page turns thanks to a beefier quad-core 1.8 GHz processor paired with 1GB of RAM. The Elipsa also comes with 32GB of built-in storage compared to the 8GB inside the reMarkable 2, however, one of the best features of the reMarkable tablets is that out of the box they natively sync to a free desktop and mobile app, whereas cross-device syncing with the Elipsa relies on a Dropbox account and third-party software.

The biggest appeal for an e-note from a company that also makes one of the world’s most popular e-readers is access to a well-stocked online bookstore, making it easier to use the Elipsa for both work and leisure without having to install third-party reading apps. But a close second is the Elipsa’s inclusion of a self-adjusting illuminated screen—a feature that the creators of the reMarkable claim would hinder its simulated pen-on-paper experience. An illuminated screen is also something that e-notes such as the Boox Nova 3 Color offer, but unfortunately, that device uses color E Ink technology that results in severe compromises in screen resolution. What the Elipsa doesn’t appear to have, however, is Kobo’s ComfortLight PRO feature that automatically makes color temperature adjustments to the screen’s lighting.

undefined

You don’t need to charge the Kobo Elipsa’s stylus, which includes two buttons that act as shortcuts to erase and highlighter modes.
Image: Rakuten Kobo

Advertisement

A pressure-sensitive stylus with swappable tips is included with the Elipsa (they’ll eventually wear down with use) but unlike the Apple Pencil it never needs to be recharged. And unlike the reMarkable 2, which requires a stylus upgrade for eraser functionality, the Elipsa’s stylus has that built in. Instead of flipping it around like a pencil, you press one of two buttons to temporarily switch to erase mode, with the other serving as a shortcut for highlighting or underlining text.

In addition to a stylus, the Kobo Elipsa includes a removable sleep cover accessory, which automatically wakes the tablet when opened and doubles as a stand when flipped around to the back. It also features an integrated stylus holder, keeping the pen securely stored with the lid closed, which is a feature that’s surprisingly lacking in most digital notebook devices. We’ll be sharing our hands-on experiences with the new e-note in the coming week, but if you’re already sold on it, preorders for the $400 tablet start today. Online and in-store availability begin June 24.

Advertisement

TCL’s First Absolutely Massive TVs Are Officially Here

Illustration for article titled TCL's First Absolutely Massive TVs Are Officially Here

Image: TCL

After being teased at CES earlier this year, TCL has officially announced pricing and availability for its monster 80-inch-plus displays. You know, for those of us who want our screens to effectively take up an entire wall in our homes.

Advertisement

TCL’s so-called XL Collection for 85-inch displays and above is its first for frankly outrageously large screens—the kind that essentially turn your home into a private movie theater. This year, the company will debut three 85-inch models: an 8K TV, a 4K QLED model (85R745) that’s powered by Roku, and a 4K 4-Series (85R435) that will also run on the Roku OS.

All of these are great options for cinephiles, of course (though I’m not totally convinced that anyone actually needs an 8K TV, given that 8K content is virtually nonexistent at this stage). For any ambitious gamers eyeing the XL Collection, you’ll want to consider the QLED, which comes equipped with 120Hz HDMI input support, Variable Refresh Rate, and THX Certified Game Mode.

Now, you may be asking yourself why on earth would you need a screen this large. Surely 65 inches is plenty of screen to replicate a cinematic experience, right? TCL pointed to streaming and vertical integration as a big, big reason to invest in a gargantuan display.

“Even though we’re finally seeing theaters open up, people have discovered the joy and simplicity of watching blockbuster movies at home,” Chris Larson, TCL Senior Vice President, said in a statement. “TCL’s XL Collection represents this next stage in the TV industry—large-size, powerful televisions that deliver premier movie-going experiences in the comfort and safety of your own living room—and we’re excited for users to get back that cinematic magic. Being one of only three global TV brands with full vertical integration, TCL continues to expand its big-screen production capacity to make the largest television screens with best-in-class imaging technology more accessible than ever.”

I’m going to be honest, that doesn’t sound too great for theaters that are already fighting to stay alive post-pandemic. But it’s true, TCL has made its XL collection very, very attractive to anyone who does prefer their cinematic experience take place from the comfort of their own living room couch. The 85-inch 4K QLED model retails for $3,000, which might be a little steep for some folks. But the 85-inch 4K 4-Series is priced at just $1,600—a steal if size alone is among the top priorities on your TV features wishlist.

No word yet on what the 85-inch OD Zero mini-LED powered 8K TV is going to cost yet. That one will go on sale later this year. It’s probably safe to expect it will cost you a pretty penny, though.

Advertisement

Here’s How to Get the Government to Pay $50 Toward Your Monthly Internet Bill

Illustration for article titled Here's How to Get the Government to Pay $50 Toward Your Monthly Internet Bill

Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP (Getty Images)

The past year has proven how vital the internet is for remote learning, working from home, and staying sane during lockdowns. As part of the stimulus package passed in December, Congress also set aside $3.2 billion for emergency broadband subsidies. Starting today, if you’ve lost a job during the pandemic or are facing other financial hardships, you can apply to the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program to receive up to $50 monthly toward your internet bill and $100 toward a new laptop, desktop, or tablet.

Advertisement

How Do I Know if I’m Eligible?

A surprising number of people may qualify for EBB. You can check out a comprehensive list here, but here’s the gist. You qualify if:

  • Your household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
  • You lost a job, or experienced a “substantial loss” in income, since Feb. 29, 2020, and had a total household income in 2020 of up to $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
  • You participate in any Tribal-specific programs or live on federally recognized Tribal land. In this case, the benefit is $75 per month.
  • You received a Pell Grant or have a child/dependent who receives free or reduced-price lunch at school in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.
  • You are already eligible for existing low-income or covid-19 programs, like SNAP, Medicaid, etc. (Check here for a full list of qualifying programs.) If you receive Lifeline benefits, you automatically qualify.

Some notes: You can only get one $50 discount per household, but that doesn’t mean multiple people living in the same apartment building are ineligible. You may just have to talk to your building manager or ISP.

I’m Eligible! How Do I Apply?

You can either contact your internet provider, apply online, or by mail. If you opt for mail, you can print the application in English or Spanish. You can also view instructions on how to apply in 9 additional languages here.

At this point, you’ve got to gather documentation that proves eligibility. That can be an official layoff or furlough notice, unemployment application or statement of benefits, pay stubs, tax returns, etc. You can find a complete list here. If you choose to send by mail, you might want to send copies of your documentation along with the application to speed up the process. The mailing address is:

Emergency Broadband Support Center
PO Box 7081
London, KY 40742

Once everything is submitted, you can then use the FCC’s search tool to find participating internet service providers in your area.

Advertisement

OK, I Still Have Some Questions…

No worries, the FCC also has an extensive EBB FAQ section. You can also email EBBHelp@usac.org, call 833-511-0311 between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. That said, here’s a summary of some of the key things you should know:

For starters, this is only a temporary benefit. The FCC says it’ll last until the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services officially declares the covid-19 pandemic is over—whichever comes first. Since the former is more likely, if you think you’re eligible you should apply ASAP.

Advertisement

Another thing to note is that you’re not getting paid the $50 directly. The FCC sends the money to your ISP, which then deducts that amount from your bill. This is why it’s crucial to make sure you’re using a participating ISP. If you pick a plan that costs less than $50, you also don’t get to pocket the extra. Likewise, if your plan costs more than $50 you have to pay the remaining amount. If you get broadband as part of a bundle, that $50 can be put towards broadband/voice/texting/router or hotspot rental fees, etc.

Also, that $100 toward a new device? That has to go through your ISP—so don’t expect to buy a new gadget and then send the receipt to the FCC yourself. The gist is the ISP can get reimbursed $100 if they provide you with a connected device, so long as you also contribute a copay of $10-$50 for said gadget. Each household is limited to one device, and the money can only be put toward a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Large phones or phablets don’t count.

Advertisement