The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) hosted a roundtable on the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”), a $3.2 billion program that will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households. Residents on Tribal lands will be eligible for up to $75 per month. Participants will also be able to receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price.

The February 12th event featured opening remarks from Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel as well as Commissioners Carr, Starks, and Simington. Next Century Cities was invited to participate in the “Provider Participation and Consumer Choice” panel. NCC’s Executive Director Francella Ochillo elevated local insights in a discussion with representatives from AT&T, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Navajo Nation, NCTA – The Cable and Internet Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, and Starry. The FCC’s Jessica Campbell and Christian Hoefly moderated the exchange, prompting panelists with questions about ensuring broad provider participation, establishing eligibility rules, and considerations for the eventual program termination.

Several NCC member municipalities – Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Longmont, Colorado; Madison, Wisconsin; Oakland, California; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington – submitted public comments for the EBB proceeding. Pointing to insights from their local officials and community leaders, Francella reiterated the importance of ensuring that every eligible household has a service provider with competitive broadband service options as well as the information they need to enroll in the program. Further, considering that the Emergency Broadband Benefit is only designed to last during the COVID-19 pandemic, she implored the FCC to treat the EBB program as one part of a continuum that leads to universal broadband access in every corner of the U.S. 

View the roundtable livestream here.