Consumers looking for information on the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit should visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides support for broadband services and certain devices to help low-income households stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law and established an Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund of $3.2 billion in the United States Treasury to help Americans afford internet service during the pandemic. The Act directed the Federal Communications Commission to use the fund to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program), under which eligible low-income households may receive a discount off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices, and participating providers can receive a reimbursement for such discounts. The EBB Program will conclude when the fund is expended or six months after the end of the public health emergency.

The Commission adopted the rules and policies creating and governing the EBB Program on February 25, 2021. The Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau, other Commission staff and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) are overseeing and administering the processes and systems needed for the EBB Program. The Bureau has announced the initial deadlines for approving the broadband provider participation and election process. On May 12, 2021, the EBB Program launched and consumers can apply for the program through the National Verifier at GetEmergencyBroadband.org and service providers can begin enrolling consumers.

Releases

Provider FCC Approvals

Provider FCC Approvals

Broadband providers wishing to participate in the EBB Program should review all applicable program requirements and procedures in the Commission’s Order (FCC 21-29) and any subsequent guidance for compliance with the EBB Program’s requirements. Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) and their affiliates in the states or territories where the ETC is designated can elect to participate in the EBB Program by filing the appropriate information with USAC and do not need to seek approval from the Bureau. All other broadband providers need to seek approval from the Bureau to participate in the EBB Program. The Bureau announced the priority application window for broadband providers seeking Bureau approval will run from March 8, 2021 to March 22, 2021. Applications received after the priority application deadline will be expeditiously reviewed on a rolling basis.

Broadband Provider Eligibility to Participate in the EBB Program

To participate in the EBB Program, a broadband provider must be designated as an ETC or seek approval from the Bureau. All broadband providers must file elections to USAC to participate in the EBB Program. A broadband provider must have provided broadband Internet access service as defined by Section 8.1 of the Commission’s rules to end-users as of December 1, 2020. Any broadband provider wishing to participate in the EBB Program must reference an FCC Form 477 filing demonstrating it provided broadband service as of December 1, 2020 or otherwise demonstrate it provided broadband service as of December 1, 2020 through certification and documentation submitted to USAC or the Bureau. A broadband provider must provide broadband service to end-users, meaning the provider of retail broadband Internet access service must maintain a direct relationship with the customer, must be responsible for dealing with customer complaints, must handle customer billing, and must provide quality of service guarantees to the end-user. A broadband provider can be an ETC or a non-ETC, and could include cable providers, wireless Internet service providers, or non-traditional broadband providers like community-owned networks, electric cooperatives, or municipal governments.

Broadband providers wishing to participate in the EBB Program should review the information on this page, and the associated program requirements and procedures set forth in the “Releases” section to determine how to participate in the EBB Program.

Non-ETC Provider Application and Approval Process

A broadband provider that is not an ETC or otherwise affiliated with an ETC in the state or territory where it would like to participate in the EBB Program must seek approval from the Bureau. There are two application methods to seek approval from the Bureau:

  1. “automatic applications” – where the non-ETC provider demonstrates it has an established program as of April 1, 2020, that is widely available and offers Internet service offerings to eligible households and maintains verification processes that are sufficient to avoid fraud, waste, and abuse; or,
  2. “expedited applications” – where the non-ETC provider without an established program demonstrates it provided qualifying broadband service to eligible households as of December 1, 2020.

Automatic Application and Approval Process

Any non-ETC broadband provider seeking to qualify for such automatic approval must file an application describing:

  1. the jurisdiction in which it plans to participate;
  2. the service areas in which the provider has the authority, if needed, to operate in each state, but has not been designated an eligible telecommunications carrier; and,
  3. a description, supported by documentation, of the established program with which the provider seeks to qualify for automatic admission to the EBB Program.
    1. Established Program as of April 1, 2020. The principal consideration in determining an “established program” for automatic approval is whether eligible subscribers receive a financial benefit through either reduced rates or rate forbearance. A provider must also show its program is “widely established” by demonstrating the program is offered to subscribers in a substantial portion of the provider’s service area in the jurisdiction for which it is seeking approval. The established program must have been available by April 1, 2020 to subscribers meeting at least one of the criteria in Consolidated Appropriations Act, div. N, tit. IX, § 904(a)(6), the definition of an EBB Program eligible household. Specifically, providers offering broadband subscribers discounted rates based on criteria such as low-income, loss of income, participation in certain federal, state, or local assistance programs, or other means-tested eligibility criteria qualify for this automatic approval process. Additionally, providers that made commitments to keep low-income subscribers connected during the pandemic and offered widely available bill forbearance or forgiveness programs beginning no later than April 1, 2020 and continuing through the end of this EBB Program will be eligible for automatic approval.
    2. Required Verification Processes. Broadband providers seeking automatic approval to participate in the EBB Program with established programs must demonstrate verification processes used for the established program. The verification process must be sufficient to avoid fraud, waste, and abuse. Providers that have been offering a broadband program for eligible households should demonstrate how they have generally foregone collecting revenue they might otherwise have assessed from participating subscribers. The providers should describe how they prevent enrollments in their programs by ineligible households. Providers that receive automatic approval to participate in the EBB Program will use the Lifeline National Verifier and Naional Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD) to verify household eligibility or their own alternative household eligibility verification processes, or the combination of both before seeking reimbursement. Even if a provider has its own existing broadband program for determining eligible households, it may decide to use the National Verifier for some or all applications to the EBB Program, although it is not required to do so. Providers wishing to use an alternative household eligibility verification process in addition to the National Verifier must submit the additional information describing the process.

Providers that file applications certifying to and making necessary demonstrations for the criteria outlined above will receive approval automatically upon filing once the Bureau confirms all required information was submitted.

Expedited Application and Approval Process

Any non-ETC broadband provider seeking to qualify for expedited approval must file an application describing:

  1. A list of states or territories where the provider will offer EBB Program services. A provider seeking approval must list each jurisdiction in which it seeks to be approved to offer EBB Program services. A provider will only need to identify the state or territory where it plans to offer qualifying EBB Program services and submit any necessary authorities to operate.
  2. A statement identifying the jurisdiction in which the provider requires FCC approval and jurisdictions in which the provider is an existing ETC. Providers that are designated as an ETC or affiliated with an ETC in some states or territories must submit an application and obtain Bureau approval to participate in the EBB Program in states or territories where the provider is not designated as an ETC. Providers with ETC designations in other jurisdictions should submit the ETC approvals. Providers without an ETC designation or unaffiliated with an ETC must certify that they are authorized to provide broadband services as of December 1, 2020.
  3. Certifications and documentation of the provider’s plan to combat waste, fraud, and abuse. Participating provider applications must include a certification that the provider understands and complies with all statutory and regulatory obligations. Specifically, a provider must certify that it will:
    1. Confirm a household’s eligibility for the Program through either the National Verifier or a Commission-approved alternate eligibility verification process prior to seeking reimbursement for the respective subscriber;
    2. Follow all enrollment requirements and obtain all certifications as required by the EBB Program, including providing eligible households with information describing the Program’s eligibility requirements, one-per-household rule, and enrollment procedures;
    3. Interact with the necessary USAC systems, including the National Verifier, National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD), and Representative Accountability Database (RAD), before submitting claims for reimbursement, including performing the necessary checks to ensure the household is not receiving duplicative benefits within the EBB Program;
    4. De-enroll from the Program any household it has a reasonable basis to believe is no longer eligible to receive the benefit consistent with Program requirements;
    5. Comply with the Program’s document retention requirements and agree to make such documentation available to the Commission or USAC, upon request of any entities (for example, auditors) operating on their behalf; and
    6. Agree to the Commission’s enforcement and forfeiture authority.

Provider applications for review must establish a sufficient showing that the provider has met the criteria for expedited review and approval, as outlined above. The Bureau will administer this expedited application review process consistent with this Order. Once approved by the Bureau, providers will have to file an election to participate in the EBB Program with USAC.

Bureau Approval of Alternative Household Eligibility Verification Processes

Providers that would like to verify household eligibility in the EBB Program through their own alternative eligibility verification process in addition to or instead of using the Lifeline National Verifier must submit documentation to the Bureau demonstrating how the process safeguards against waste, fraud, and abuse. The provider must describe how its alternative process collects the household applicant’s: (1) full name, (2) phone number, (3) date of birth, (4) e-mail address, (5) home and mailing addresses, (6) name and date of birth of the benefit qualifying person if different than applicant, (7) basis for inclusion in program (e.g., SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, school lunch, Pell Grant, income, provider’s existing program, etc.) and documentation supporting verification of eligibility, and (8) certifications from the household that the information included in the application is true. The provider must describe the processes it (or a third-party) uses to verify the requested information above, including the applicant’s identity and eligibility, and must explain why the provider’s alternative process will be sufficient to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse. The provider must also explain how it trains its employees and agents to prevent ineligible enrollments, including enrollments based upon fabricated documents. If the alternative verification process fails to include any of the above information, the provider should explain why it thinks such information is not necessary to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. If a provider without an established low-income program seeks approval of an alternative verification process, it must explain why it proposes to use an alternative verification process instead of the National Verifier eligibility determinations.

Bureau Approval Application Resources

Broadband providers requiring Bureau approval to participate in the EBB Program or use an alternative household eligibility verification process must submit an application through the online application portal.

Before You Apply

In advance of filing an application, eligible broadband providers should:

  1. Have an FCC Registration Number (FRN) for the broadband provider and username and password in the Commission Registration System (CORES). An FRN is a 10-digit number that is assigned to a business or individual registering with the FCC and is used to identify the registrant’s business dealings with the FCC. Learn more about CORES.
  2. Register with the federal System for Award Management (SAM). See the User Guides for SAM registration support. The provider should ensure the Tax Identification Number (TIN) associated with the providers FRN, SAM, and DUNS number matches.

Tips for Completing the Application

  1. Have your FCC username and password from CORES on hand. You will need these to log in.
  2. Fully and accurately complete all fields marked with an asterisk (*). These must be answered for your application to be complete.
  3. Have the necessary supporting documentation prepared for the application you are submitting. Specific documentation submissions will be prompted, and this includes established programs, alternative eligibility verification processes, ETC designations, authorities to operate. Providers should upload a narrative document as an attachment to the application (by clicking the paperclip icon at the bottom of the page) describing how the provider meets the EBB Program requirements.

Provider USAC Elections

USAC Election Process for All EBB Program Broadband Providers

The Commission established an expedited process where existing ETCs and other approved providers could “elect” to participate in the EBB Program and gain access to the necessary USAC databases being used to administer the EBB Program. All participating providers must file an election notice with USAC to participate in the EBB Program. Existing ETCs and broadband providers affiliated with an ETC in the jurisdiction can file elections without seeking Bureau approval to participate in the EBB Program. Non-ETCs will need to first apply and then obtain Bureau approval prior to filing their election with USAC. The Bureau announced broadband providers can start filing elections with USAC on March 11, 2021. Elections will be expeditiously reviewed on a rolling basis.

The elections will collect information that includes: (1) the states in which the provider plans to participate in the EBB Program; (2) a statement that, in each such state, the provider was a “broadband provider” as of December 1, 2020; (3) a list of states where the provider is an existing ETC, if any; (4) a list of states where the provider received FCC approval, whether automatic or expedited, to participate, if any; (5) whether the provider intends to distribute connected devices under the EBB Program; (6) a description of the Internet service offerings for which the provider plans to seek reimbursement from the EBB Program in each state; (7) documentation demonstrating the standard rates for those services; and (8) any other administrative information necessary for USAC to establish participating providers in the EBB Program.

More information regarding the election process is available on the USAC webpage at: https://www.usac.org/about/emergency-broadband-benefit-program/.

For Consumers

Consumer Outreach & Education

February 26, 2021 - Fact Sheet
FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Fact Sheet

Consumers looking for more information on FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit should visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

The Bureau encourages all potential broadband provider applicants to review applicable program requirements and procedures as set forth in the Commission’s Order (FCC 21-29) and any subsequent guidance for compliance with the EBB Program’s requirements. The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) are intended only to provide responses to common questions and do not supersede the Commission’s decisions in the controlling order. To fulfill its obligation of evaluating provider approval applications, the Bureau reserves its authority to review and evaluate for completeness and accuracy the specific application information submitted as part of the approval process.

Broadband Provider Application Process

  1. What do I need in order to apply?
    • Identifying information for the applying broadband provider including Legal Entity Name, FRN, Holding Company, DUNS Number, Address and jurisdictions it is seeking approval
    • Contact information including contact name, phone number and email
    • A narrative document submitted as an attachment describing how the provider meets the requirements to participate in the EBB program
    • Authorizations to operate in requested jurisdictions, including any ETC designations
    • If necessary, a narrative document submitted as an attachment describing any alternative household eligibility process the provider is seeking approval to meet the requirements for use in the EBB program
  2. What information should be contained in the narrative documents submitted with the application?

    All broadband providers seeking approval should review the Commission’s Order to ensure the application contains all necessary information for approval. In addition to the specific information collected on the application form, the provider should submit a narrative description of how it meets the requirements to participate in the EBB Program. This includes how the provider offered broadband service to end-users as of December 1, 2020 in the jurisdictions they are seeking approval and the specific requirements for either automatic approval or expediated approval.

    For automatic approval, the provider should describe: (1) the jurisdiction in which it plans to participate, (2) the service areas in which the provider has the authority, if needed, to operate in each state, but has not been designated an eligible telecommunications carrier, and (3) a description, supported by documentation, of the established program with which the provider seeks to qualify for automatic admission to the EBB Program.

    For expedited approval, the provider should describe: (1) the states or territories in which it plans to participate, (2) the service areas in which the provider has the authority, if needed, to operate in each state but has not been designated an eligible telecommunications carrier, and (3) the certifications and documentation of the provider’s plan to combat waste, fraud, and abuse.

    For approval of an alternative household eligibility verification process, the provider should describe: (1) its alternative process for collecting the household applicant’s identifying information and required certifications; (2) the processes it (or a third-party) uses to verify the requested household information, including the applicant’s identity and eligibility; (3) an explanation of why the provider’s alternative process will be sufficient to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse; (4) an explanation of how it trains its employees and agents to prevent ineligible enrollments, including enrollments based on fabricated documents; (5) an explanation showing how its process is sufficient to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse and why any of the above information is not collected; and, (6) if necessary, a provider without an established low-income program seeking approval of an alternative verification process must explain why it proposes to use an alternative verification process instead of the National Verifier eligibility determinations.

    Additional explanations of these requirements are available in the “Provider FCC Approvals Tab” of this webpage.

  3. I need to create a CORES account and FCC Registration Number (FRN) before I begin an application. How do I do this?

    You must register for an FRN in the Commission’s Registration System (CORES). To register with CORES, go to: https://apps.fcc.gov/cores/userLogin.do. First, set up an account in CORES by creating a username and password. You will then receive an automated email to verify your account’s email address and activate your account. Once your account is activated, log in to CORES, and select “Register New FRN” if you do not have an FRN. After you provide the required information and submit, CORES will generate a new FRN for you.

    For more information about or support with CORES and FRNs, see CORES Help at https://apps.fcc.gov/coresWeb/publicHome.do?faq=true.

  4. Where can a broadband provider find the application to apply for Bureau approval to participate or approval of an alternative eligibility process?

    The online application is available at the ServiceNow portal.

  5. How do I confirm that my application was received and is being reviewed?

    Once you successfully submit your application through the application portal, you will receive an automated response that the application has been submitted to the contact email. If you did not receive the email please check you junk/spam folder and white list the email sender to ensure receipt of future communications. You can check the status of your application in the portal. If you successfully submitted your application, you will see applications that are submitted, require additional information, or have been closed and received a determination.

    FCC staff will contact you if additional action or information is needed to process your application.

  6. Can I submit more than one provider for approval on the same application?

    No, you can only submit one provider for approval per application. You can seek approval to participate and approval of alternative eligibility verification processes on the same application. If you need to seek approval to participate for multiple providers, you must submit multiple applications.

  7. Do providers that have received ETC designations for some portions of its service area within a state or territory, but not the entire state or territory, need FCC approval prior to filing elections with USAC to participate in EBB Program in the portions of its service area in that state or territory where it has not been designated an ETC?

    No, providers that are an ETC or affiliated with an ETC in the state or territory only need to file elections with USAC to participate throughout that entire state or territory. If a provider wishes to participate in other states where they are not an ETC, they need to seek Bureau approval for the other states.

 

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