The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) recently became an outreach partner for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a program to help households struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms. EBBP will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
Here are some answers to some of the most common questions about EBBP:
Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
A household is eligible if one member of the household:
- Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the US Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award 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;
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program; or
- Qualifies for the Lifeline program or participates in one of the following federal assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit; or
- A household’s income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of that size.
How Do EBBP-Eligible Households Enroll?
If a household is already a Lifeline participant, they will not need to apply for EBBP or provide any new documents to prove eligibility. Applicants only need to opt-in to a plan provided by their current broadband provider or request enrollment in the program. Current Lifeline subscribers can keep their current Lifeline benefit while also adding a plan that is offered through the EBBP. People who are not currently participating in Lifeline must apply for the EBBP through the National Lifeline Verifier.
When Can EBBP-Eligible Households Apply?
The FCC has not set a date for enrollment to begin. However, enrollment is expected to start by May 2021. The enrollment period is required to close six months after the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that the pandemic emergency is over or when the $3.2 billion appropriated by Congress has been exhausted, whichever occurs first.
Who are Emergency Broadband Benefit Providers and Where can I Find them?
The FCC recently unveiled a downloadable data table consisting of all broadband providers who have elected to participate in EBBP. The list will be updated as more providers join the program. Individuals can search by state for fixed broadband services and mobile broadband services. Fixed broadband services are provided to your home, or a single location. These include cable, fiber optic, DSL, satellite, and fixed wireless services. Mobile broadband services are device-based and available throughout the service provider’s cellular coverage area, similar to cell phone services.
The National Association of Regional Councils will offer support and information to regional and local communities to help the FCC mobilize people and organizations and share important consumer information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. To learn more about the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, please check out the resources provided by our national partners at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and Next Century Cities (NCC).