On May 10, 2021, Next Century Cities’ Francella Ochillo, Ryan Johnston, and Corian Zacher met with California Public Utilities Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves and members of her staff to discuss state promotion strategies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”) program. The program offers a monthly discount to offset the cost of broadband Internet subscriptions and a one-time discount on a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer. Applications for the program opened on May 12th and will continue until funding is exhausted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.
The CPUC is one of many state agencies that are working to ensure that low-income households find out about the EBB. Its efforts include adding information to the COVID-19 relief page on the Commission’s website; promoting the EBB through current outreach channels; highlighting the EBB a newsletter shared with local governments, community-based organizations, reporters, and other stakeholders; and using posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to educate the public. Utilizing social media helps to ensure that a broad circle of eligible households and trusted messengers learn about the EBB program.
All of these strategies provide a helpful model for other states working to reach households in need and can inform long-term outreach for other broadband affordability programs. Notably, including local governments and community-based organizations in communication channels can also help to facilitate information-sharing about enrollment challenges.
NCC has highlighted successful strategies that other states have used. For example, Wisconsin established a hotline staffed by Public Service Commission employees, where residents can call and access information about enrolling in the EBB program. New York launched a web portal for residents seeking affordable Internet that includes EBB information. Colorado Governor Polis is partnering with state agencies across different sectors to share program information with residents.
More information about the many ways in which state and local entities are promoting the EBB is available on NCC’s EBBP Resource Page. NCC also stressed the importance of developing paper materials for people who cannot get online and tailoring federal promotional resources to focus on California residents, which can fill critical information gaps left by nationwide outreach strategies.
Additional Emergency Broadband Benefit Resources: