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Oklahoma District Announces Discounted Internet Program

Enid Public Schools announced a program that offers discounted Internet service for families that qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program through at least the rest of the school year.

a student using a tablet
Shutterstock/Ann in the uk
(TNS) — Families of students who currently qualify this school year for free and reduced lunches at Enid Public Schools now can apply for a discounted Internet service.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program could provide free broadband Internet through at least the rest of the school year, EPS officials said.

A discount of up to $50 a month off is available to eligible households, or up to $75 off for households on tribal lands. One-time discount up to $100 also is available for devices such as routers purchased from providers.

According to EPS, nearly all local broadband providers are participating in the Federal Communications Commission program that began enrollment in May.

At that time, only EPS households who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches in the previous two school years also were automatically eligible for the program, said Jeffery Herbel, district director of information technology.

Herbel said families’ providers would receive funding directly from the FCC.

In the 2019-20 school year, 5,847 students districtwide qualified for EPS’ free/reduced lunch program, district CFO Sam Robinson said.

The program is essentially replacing the district’s previous service providing a free WiFi hot spot device to EPS households, as the grant from T-Mobile USA expired earlier this year, Herbel said.

“We definitely learned during the pandemic that high-speed Internet is now a necessity. So the need is just going to continue to be there,” he said.

The program is set to last either until six months after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over or until funding runs out.

Herbel said he doesn’t expect the program to end until at least after the school year in May.

Participating households will need to opt-in to continue receiving broadband services from their provider after the program ends.

Along with the school lunch programs, households also are eligible if they have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program; received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; experienced a “substantial” income loss through job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020, and met certain income requirements.

To enroll, go to www.GetEmergencyBroadband.org to submit an application to print out or mail in; or contact your preferred participating provider to select an eligible plan and have the discount applied to your bill.

©2021 the Enid News & Eagle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.