Even though the pandemic is easing, households are still trying to recover from the crisis.
The Federal Communications Commission is providing a relief program to help pay Internet bills.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those eligible, Internet service providers will deduct 50-dollars from the bill every month. This will last until the program runs out of money or the pandemic is declared over by health officials.
Marty Newell is chief operating officers at the Center for Rural Strategies. He says high speed broadband access isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.
“Got to have it to do business. You got to have it to go to school, you got to have it to check with your doctor. You've got to have it to apply for benefits. You've got to have it apply for a job.”
Beyond emergency aid, responding to broadband service gaps has been a priority for elected officials. Governor Kristi Noem recently touted the state's 100-million investment in expanding high-speed internet.
Newell says the EBB program received strong support from both sides of the aisle.
“Nobody in Washington says we need less accessible and more expensive internet service for my constituents.”
According to Newell, 695 households in South Dakota have enrolled in the program so far. Rural South Dakotan Jessica Schaap says the effort has been a big help for her family after struggling with spotty connections.
"My kids had to go into, during the pandemic, they had to go into town and sit in the parking lots to be able to do their homework."
The FCC reports that 95-percent of South Dakotans have high-speed internet access. That number falls to 89 percent for rural populations.
Low-income households and people who make less than 198-thousand could be eligible for the program. For more information on eligibility and how to apply, visit ebbhelp.org or call the program’s hotline at 833-511-0311.