FCC Launches Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

A new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program has launched to help low-income households receive discounts on their broadband service. Lawmakers authorized the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) in December as part of a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package. Now, with more than 875 Internet service providers on board, the FCC finally has launched the program in every state and territory.  

Why it matters: The program is funded with $3.2 billion, making the EBB the largest federal program to help with Internet bills since Americans have been going online. The funding recognizes that high-speed Internet at home has become essential for school, work, and many other areas of life during the pandemic. And some of your households may be struggling to afford an Internet connection.

According to an FCC report released last June, at least 18 million Americans still lack speedy and reliable connections. An April Pew Research survey of American parents with children attending school remotely found that 36 percent of low-income respondents said it was somewhat likely their children wouldn’t be able to finish schoolwork because they lacked an Internet connection at home. And in the same survey, 43 percent of lower-income parents said it is very or somewhat likely their children will have to do schoolwork on their cellphones.

What you need to know: 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. The EBB pays $50 every month toward the cost of a household's Internet service. The EBB benefit increases to $75 per month for families that live in tribal areas. And there’s an additional one-time $100 discount available for people who purchase new equipment like a laptop or tablet through a participating company.

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% 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.