by Labonno Islam (Digital Engagement & Communications Specialist) and Juliet Fink-Yates (Digital Inclusion Fellow), City of Philadelphia Office of Innovation and Technology
The City of Philadelphia recognizes that access to the internet will remain critical for families and individuals as we begin to recover from the pandemic. Internet access is essential for all Philadelphia families and individuals to do a wide range of activities, from schoolwork to job searching to getting vaccinated and staying healthy.
In the past year, there have been exciting developments to help households get the internet access they need. The City’s Office of Innovation and Technology is committed to making sure everyone can remain connected and internet access is available for all.
For additional support, call the Digital Navigator helpline to walk you through the options listed below.
The City launched PHLConnectED in August of 2020 to ensure that all K–12 students could learn remotely during the pandemic. PHLConnectED expanded to include eligible pre-K–12 student households with access to free and reliable internet service through summer 2022. PHLConnectED has provided thousands of internet connections to Philadelphia pre-K–12 families.
To sign up and find out if your household is eligible for PHLConnectED, dial 2-1-1. For language services, press 8.
Through PHLConnectED, you can either get:
- Wired, high-speed internet through Comcast’s Internet Essentials; OR
- T-Mobile wireless hotspots with unlimited data for families who are housing insecure and/or cannot be served by Comcast.
Households eligible for free internet through PHLConnectED include:
- Those who do not have internet access;
- Have mobile phone internet access only;
- Are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity;
- Have students who participate in remote learning in locations without internet access;
- Participate in public benefit programs with income qualifications like Medicaid or SNAP;
- Have students designated as English Learners; and/or
- Have students who receive special education services.
You can learn more about PHLConnectED at phila.gov/phlconnected.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) launched on May 12, 2021 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help all U.S. households access or keep their internet.
Eligible households in Philadelphia can receive:
- A discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service; and
- A one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if a household contributes between $10 and $50 toward the purchase price.
A household is eligible if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
- Has been approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019–2020 or 2020–2021 school year. Note: All School District of Philadelphia households are eligible under this provision regardless of income.
- Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
- Has received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Has experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
To get this benefit there are four steps:
- Visit getemergencybroadband.org.
- Check your eligibility status and then complete the universal verifier application.
- Find a participating internet service provider.
- Sign up with that provider to apply for the benefit. You may be able to apply it to your current internet service. You can also use it to get internet access for the first time if you are not currently signed up for internet service.
A few more important facts about the EBB:
- This is a short-term benefit that will either last until funds run out OR 6 months after U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) declare an end to the COVID-19 emergency. The sooner you apply, the more likely the benefit will be available to you.
- You will have to submit documents that verify your identity. You do not have to submit a social security card. You can upload other documents, such as an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- You can apply using a paper application and submit the required documents by mail. This document is in English and Spanish with instructions in 9 additional languages.
- You can use this benefit for fixed, in-home broadband such as Comcast Internet Essentials, Xfinity, or Verizon FIOS. You can also use this benefit toward a wireless mobile hotspot offered by several providers.
- You can also use this benefit toward your wireless mobile phone plan if your mobile phone provider is participating in the benefit. Contact your internet or wireless mobile phone provider and ask if they are participating in the EBB.
- Not all ISPs are offering devices. If you need a device, you must get your device and your internet through the same provider.
Everyone can help spread the word about the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Flyers, factsheets, and other promotional materials are available through the EBB Outreach Toolkit. Consumer materials are also available in the following languages: Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Chinese-Traditional, Chinese-Simplified, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
If you need any help or support to get internet access, call the Digital Navigator helpline to walk you through the options above.