Due to the move to Zoom court proceedings during the pandemic, lack of internet access or internet-connected devices has prevented access to justice for countless low-income people across the Commonwealth. Many people are unable to log into court hearings, struggle to present evidence to support their case, or are unable to participate at all in the legal process.
The numbers are staggering. More than 1 million Massachusetts residents, over 15 percent, do not have a fixed broadband internet connection. As the ACLU describes, “Adults living without broadband face significant barriers in accessing employment, education, and other necessities….” Lack of access to broadband exacerbates existing inequalities nationwide, with Black and Latinx adults almost twice as likely as white adults to lack broadband access.
To address the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission has launched a new temporary program to help households struggling to afford Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides:
- a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and a discount of up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands,
- a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.
Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application. Learn more about eligibility and how to enroll by visiting www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or by calling 833-511-0311.