Is Your School Eligible for Free or Discounted Internet Access?
You or your school might be eligible for free or discounted internet access and devices.
In response to the increased need for online learning since the pandemic, school districts, states, and the federal government are providing new benefits and resources for students who need help getting high-speed internet and technology at home or at school.
There are many resources that students and schools can use to navigate these resources and determine what’s right for them.
Resources for Schools
The E-Rate program provides 20-90% discounts for schools for a variety of internet services, such as telecommunications and internet access. Schools will need to apply for these funds in the fall for the following summer, and the application has many steps and requirements.
The FCC provides a brief overview of the program and its benefits here, and schools can walk through detailed, step-by-step instructions here. There are also a variety of E-Rate consulting companies that can help school districts navigate the application process for a fee. Many of these sites have short explanations and helpful free resources that schools can take advantage of.
American Rescue Plan Funds
If your school or local educational agency received funds through the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), it’s possible you still have funds available that can be used to purchase computers or other internet connected devices like Chromebooks for your students. Purchases using ECF must be made by June 30, 2024, and ESSER funds must be allocated for use by September 2024.
Other Federal Funds
In addition to the American Rescue Plan there are several recurring federal grants that can be used for device purchases, such as the USDA’s Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants, for rural communities, and the Department of Education-Indian Education Title VI (A, Subpart I) Formula Grants, for Native American students. Schools can explore these and other grants on the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s BroadbandUSA website.
There are many case studies and best practices that showcase how existing schools are developing broadband infrastructure or outline information schools will need as they plan. Two examples include the Department of Education’s Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning and Creative Solutions to Closing the Digital Divide from College Board’s The Elective blog.
Resources for Families
The Affordable Connectivity Program
The ACP is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides eligible families with a $30/month discount for a monthly broadband service, as well as a one-time discount toward a device.
Programs from Internet Service Providers
Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also provide discounted internet for qualified applicants. The chart at this link compiles many of these programs into one list.
In some cases, there may be additional state and local resources that schools and families can pursue to secure broadband access. We encourage you to contact your state and local officials for information on available resources.