The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit

Resources for Next Century Cities Members

What is the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to necessitate distance learning, telework, and reliance on telehealth, broadband connectivity is essential. For those in low-income households, maintaining an Internet connection means choosing between other necessities. Congress created the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBBP”) to address affordability, one of the main barriers to adoption. 

This program, run by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), offers a monthly discount to offset the cost of broadband Internet subscriptions, helping those that are struggling with connectivity with pathways to stay connected. In addition, the program provides a one-time discount on a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer.

View NCC’s Explainers

When can I apply?

The FCC has not set a date for enrollment to begin. However, enrollment is expected to start by May 2021. The enrollment period is required to close six months after the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that the pandemic emergency is over, or when the $3.2 billion appropriated by Congress has been exhausted, whichever occurs first. At least 30 days before the termination of EBBP discounts, providers must give participants explicit notice that the program is coming to an end. Once the program expires, customers must affirmatively “opt-in” to continuing service before being charged at the full, non-discounted rate.

Who is eligible?

A household is eligible if one member of the household:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

Do I receive the funds directly each month?

No, the Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a monthly discount on broadband service of up to $50 per eligible household (or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands).  The participating broadband service provider will receive the funds directly from the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

What is the enhanced benefit amount for residents on Tribal lands?

Eligible households on Tribal lands can receive a total monthly discount of up to $75.  You can find out more about which areas are eligible Tribal lands by visiting this site: www.lifelinesupport.org/additional-support-for-tribal-land.

Which internet service providers are participating?

Various broadband providers, including those offering landline and wireless broadband, will be participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit.  Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of providers.  Check with the broadband providers in your area to learn about their plans for program participation and eligible service offerings.  You can find a list of participating providers by state and territory by clicking the button below.

Resources from the Universal Service Administrative Company

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is a non-governmental organization tasked with the administration of the FCC’s various broadband assistance programs. They will also administer the Emergency Broadband Benefit. USAC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit support hotline, (833) 511-0311, is open from 9am to 9pm EST, seven days a week. Consumers and providers can also email EBBHelp@USAC.org with program questions.

Local Governments are using press releases and web pages to announce the EBB program.

  • Seattle, Washington | The Office of Information Technology has a Low-Cost Internet Access resource web page which includes information about the EBB program. 
  • Burlington, Washington | The Burlington Public Library hosts a Community Connections web page, which includes the EBB program on its list of COVID-19 resources.
  • Carson, California | Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes issued a statement in a press release discussing the EBB program, stating, “My colleagues and I are thankful for this great program critically needed by students and the unemployed to get digitally connected. A $50 monthly credit towards internet bills will bring noticeable relief to those affected by this pandemic.”
  • Fairfax County, Virginia | includes EBB program information with COVID-19 broadband resources
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico | The City hosts a map that displays public WiFi locations and also includes information about the EBB program on the webpage.
  • Ecorse, MI | The City posted a news update on its website and Facebook page that encourages residents to apply for the EBB program and includes links to the FCC’s website.

Successful EBB outreach strategies include state outreach and partnerships.

Local leaders are working to promote the EBB.

  • Tazewell County, Virginia | Tazewell County Public Schools (TCPS) contributed an article to a local newspaper sharing information about the EBB program. TCPS Director of Technology Cynthia Beavers said, “While we have worked hard to provide access to households who do not have internet access at home through our wireless access points in the school parking lots and hot spots for online learners, this benefit program will help families to bring the internet into their own homes. It is not limited to online students and can, therefore, help a multitude of families within our communities. Families interested in participating should review the information at the website below for a list of participating providers and additional important information. I am pleased to serve as an outreach partner for this program, which means that we will keep our stakeholders updated by posting additional information as it becomes available on our division website.”
  • The Maine Department of Education contributed an article to a community newspaper discussing the announcement of the EBB program and directing readers to the FCC’s website.

Federal agencies have also published EBB resources.

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, Apr 15, 2021 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living included an announcement about the EBB program on its website.

Other Resources

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