The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted unanimously for a $3.2 billion program, approved as part of the $900 billion COVID Relief bill that provides emergency discounts of up to $50 per month toward broadband internet service for low-income households adversely affected by the pandemic.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) also provides up to $75 per month for households on Native American land and a one-time discount of up to $100 on a tablet or computer for those who qualify. The program will be opened to eligible households by April 2021.
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection. It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries. In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.”Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
The EBB program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.
More than 33 million may be able to obtain the monthly aid, according to Free Press, a public-interest advocacy group, which said the number probably will be higher. Those eligible include families whose income is no greater than 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and others who participate in programs such as reduced school lunches.
The discounts are limited to one per household and they will have to apply to receive the aid when the program is implemented in the coming months. The money will be paid directly to Internet providers that register with the U.S. government and obtain permission to participate. Companies are not required to accept the benefits under the program
The FCC has published the following criteria to qualify for this benefit
- Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs (like the Food Stamp program)
- 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;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- 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.
How to Apply for Emergency Broadband Benefit
Eligible households must both apply for the program and contact a participating provider to select a service plan.
There are three ways for eligible households to apply:
- Contact a participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process. If you are unable to apply through them directly, you will have to apply using option 2 or 3 below, and then contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan.
- Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you. After you apply, you will have to contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan.
- Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application or print a copy, and return it along with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to:
Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742
After you received a notice that you have qualified for the program, households must contact a participating provider to select an Emergency Broadband Benefit eligible service plan.