2.3M Households Enroll in Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently announced that 2.3 million households have enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program in its first three weeks. The EBB program provides a discount on both broadband service and needed equipment, such as a modem. Lawmakers authorized the EBB in December as part of a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package. Over 1,000 Internet service providers (ISP) are participating in the program, which provides a monthly discount on Internet services and a one-time discount on a connected device for eligible households.

Driving the news: FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that since launching in mid-May, households in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa were approved to receive a discount on their monthly Internet bills and have selected a participating EBB provider to receive Internet service at home. “I am thrilled to see that the great need for affordable broadband support is being met with over 2 million households enrolled in three short weeks,” Rosenworcel said in a release.

What you need to know: A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Is 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 Feb. 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. These are individuals who already receive subsidized or low-income Internet service, such the FCC’s Lifeline or ISP-sponsored programs such as Comcast’s $10 per month Internet Essentials.

Households can apply online at the website GetEmergencyBroadband.org. Households that don’t have the capability or Internet speed to apply online can also download and print an application, and then mail it. These individuals can call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application.

The bottom line: The EBB money will last until six months after the federal government declares an end to the COVID-19 health crisis or when the money runs out, whichever comes first. To help track relevant data, the FCC directed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to develop a new data dashboard for advocates, members of Congress, and the general public to track the progress of the EBB program. The dashboard provides information on nationwide and state-specific enrollment figures. Moving forward, it will also report the amount of program funds disbursed once participating providers start to file claims and will be updated regularly by USAC staff.