(Adds more details)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - The Federal CommunicationsCommission said Monday it is moving to finalize rules for atemporary $3.2 billion program funded by Congress to providelower-income Americans with discounts on monthly internetservice and on purchasing a laptop or tablet computer.
Internet access has become even more critical during theCOVID-19 pandemic as millions of children attend school online.The discounts are worth up to $50 a month for internet service,and up to $75 on Tribal Lands.
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Monday shewas circulating for a vote a report and final order to establishrules for the program.
"From work to healthcare to education, this crisis has madeit clear that without an internet connection too many householdsare locked out of modern life," Rosenworcel said in a statement.
Under the program, households will also be able to get agovernment discount of up to $100 on a laptop, tablet or desktopcomputer from participating providers. The buyer must contributeup to $50 to the purchase price.
Americans are eligible if they receive benefits under thefree and reduced-price school lunch program, experienced asubstantial loss of income since early 2020, receive a FederalPell Grant; or meet eligibility criteria for participatingproviders’ existing low-income or COVID-19 programs.
The California Public Utilities Commission said the FCCshould set affordable pricing for the program "for a predictabletime frame" and added it agrees "the "$3.2 billion will beallocated quickly."
The city of Chicago urged the FCC to create a program "withclear, available data and communications regarding its likelylength and the amount of remaining funds."
Congress said the program would last at least six months butcould be longer based on when the Department of Health and HumanServices Department determines the public health emergency isover.(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien andDavid Gregorio)