As we work our way through a pandemic that has upended so much in our day-to-day life, we have been asked to migrate so many of the things we do online. From work to healthcare to education, this crisis has made it clear that without an internet connection, too many households are locked out of modern life. But across the country, there are those struggling to afford this critical service. To address this problem, late last year Congress directed the FCC to establish a new Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to assist families struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic. Today I’m proud to advance a proposal to implement this program to help as many eligible families as possible.
I know there are a lot of questions about the program. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know:
So, first things first, what is the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program? And what exactly does it do?
- The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
- Through the program, eligible households may receive a discount off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices during an emergency period relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Participating providers can be reimbursed for such discounts.
How much is the discount?
- A $50/month discount for eligible broadband;
- A $75/month discount for eligible broadband on Tribal lands; and
- A one-time $100 reimbursement for laptops, tablets and computers purchased through a qualified provider.
Who is eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
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;
- Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
So, what’s next? Today I shared the proposed rules for the Emergency Benefit Broadband Program with my colleagues. The next step in that process is for the Commissioners to consider the program structure and rules and then vote. Once that is complete, the law requires us to review requests from interested providers who want to participate in the program, and we will also continue to develop the system we will use to administer the program. We are working hard to be able to announce the start date for the program.
The bottom line: No one should have to choose between paying their internet bill or paying to put food on the table. With the help of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, we have a new way for households to access virtual learning, for patients to connect to telehealth providers, and for those struggling in this pandemic to learn new online skills and seek their next job. I urge the FCC to act swiftly to help as many households and families as possible take advantage of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. To learn more, sign up to be a partner in our outreach efforts by visiting, fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.