By Gwenn Weaver
For participants in adult education and family literacy programs who have no or limited broadband access, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) offers potential solutions.
This $3.2 billion program is intended to provide a discounted price of up to $50 per month (up to $75 per month on Tribal lands) to help eligible households acquire access to adequate broadband Internet service. The monthly payment will go directly to the vendor providing the service. Additionally, households purchasing a desktop or laptop computer or a tablet from a participating provider may obtain a one-time discount of up to $100 on a single device.
The EBB is being managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). According to the FCC’s consumer fact sheet, at least one member of the household must meet one of the following criteria to qualify for the program:
- Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits. To learn more about Lifeline eligibility, go to Do I Qualify?.
- 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.
- 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.
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
The FCC expects to open the enrollment process for consumers by the end of April.
Internet service providers (ISPs) must opt in to offer the program. The EBB will only be available in areas where an ISP that has joined the program provides service. The FCC is currently in the process of signing up service providers and will announce the eligible offerings before opening up consumer enrollment. More information regarding the vendor/ISP process can be found on the FCC website at Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.
The EBB is funded by an appropriation from Congress. The subsidy will be paid until either the funds run out or the pandemic emergency is declared over, whichever comes first. Customers will be notified before the subsidy ends so that they can determine whether or not they want to continue the Internet service.
No funds were allocated for outreach activities to communicate with the public about the program, so the FCC is seeking to partner with people and organizations to get the word out. To become a partner, complete the form at the bottom of the consumer information page at Emergency Broadband Benefit.
For additional Information, visit the EBB resource page of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).