The Federal Communications Commission is launching a new program to expand access to affordable internet service. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program aims to connect eligible households to healthcare, school and job opportunities otherwise unavailable without internet access. (Read CUB’s fact sheet here.)
Up to 42 million people in the United States could lack access to broadband internet, and one researcher estimates that around 18.5 million households don’t have it because of the high cost of the service. So programs such as this have value.
What does the program offer?
The program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Participants can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. These benefits are limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
Who qualifies for the program?
A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the following criteria:
- 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;
- Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program 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 program.
How can I enroll?
Eligible households can now enroll in the program by visiting https://getemergencybroadband.org/how-to-apply/.
How long will this assistance last?
The assistance will end when the fund runs out of money or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner. Participating households will need to opt-in to continue receiving broadband services from their provider after the program ends. If a household chooses to continue receiving service after the end of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, they will be billed the broadband provider’s general monthly rate.
Do all internet providers offer the program discount?
Not all broadband providers offer the Emergency Broadband Benefit. To find a program provider in your area, use the Companies Near Me tool. You can search using your ZIP code or your city and state. You can also call your current service provider and ask if they will be participating in the program.
Why is the Federal Communications Commission offering this program?
The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened our adoption of a digital society. Schooling, jobs, doctors’ visits, family gatherings, utility bill consultations, therapy: all these events can and have been held remotely this past year thanks to a combination of internet and technology. But as millions were in sudden need of reliable, affordable internet service to access these resources from home, the pandemic illuminated a growing digital divide. Many rural and low-income communities lack reliable, affordable internet access or cannot afford it. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was created to help close the gap and provide internet to those who may not be able to afford it.