The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBBP”) is a new, federally funded, broadband affordability program aimed at ensuring that low-income consumers are able to maintain Internet connections during the pandemic. The program will allow eligible consumers to receive a $50 per month allowance to maintain a broadband subscription during the pandemic. The benefit increases to $75 per month for eligible consumers living on Tribal Lands. Local officials can find more information or sign-up to be a community partner here.

On January 25th, Next Century Cities filed comments highlighting the following points:

  • The Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) must be as inclusive as possible when inviting providers to apply to participate in the EBBP.
  • The Commission should collect a wide array of information related to EBBP service options, and make that information available to the public. 
  • As highlighted in comments from various municipalities, EBBP participants need broadband service speeds that are fast enough to support distance learning, telework, and telehealth for multi-member households. 
  • The Commission must work closely with state and local governments, as well as community nonprofits and service organizations, to advertise the EBBP. 

Additionally, on February 16th, NCC filed reply comments, expanding on recommendations from municipalities across the nation. 

  • NCC urged the Commission to include single-payer models in the EBBP which would help to ensure that eligible households  in public housing developments and nursing home facilities, for example, quickly learn about and have enrollment support for the program. 
  • Tech support and extended warranties should be covered services under the EBBP as they will prolong the life of covered devices that are intended to last throughout, and possibly beyond, the pandemic. 
  • The Commission must work quickly to develop clear rules and procedures that govern the end of the EBBP. Participants need adequate notice about how their service will be impacted after funding is depleted and the program comes to an end. 

Through comments, reply comments, roundtable discussion, and ex partes, NCC has urged the Commission to be inclusive in crafting eligibility requirements for providers while providing participants with clear rules of the road on program benefits and responsibilities. The Commission only has a few weeks to implement the EBBP, but that does not reduce the need to respond to the very real challenges that consumers face when it comes to finding and maintaining affordable broadband service during the pandemic. 

Review NCC’s comments here, our reply comments here, and our press release highlighting comments from member municipalities here. For questions regarding the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, please contact Ryan Johnston at ryan@nextcenturycities.org.