The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was created by the FCC or Federal Communications Commission last month to help millions of Americans that have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic stay connected and help pay a portion of their internet costs. This includes low-income families, students, and anyone else who has had severe economic hardship during this time.
While there’s still a need for more long-term solutions to finally close the digital divide, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will help those struggling to make ends meet that are at risk of digital disconnected stay connected. Families won’t have to make the choice between putting food on the table and keeping their internet connection so their kids can learn remotely. Here is everything we know about the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program so far.
Further Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Details
The program will provide discounts of up to $50 a month, or $75 a month on tribal lands for broadband internet service. Within the program it also includes a one-time discount of up to $100 for an internet enabled laptop, desktop or tablet purchased from approved vendors. The only stipulation is that families who receive and utilize the one-time discount must spend $10–$50 toward the purchase price of their new device.
Who Is Eligible For The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
There are several ways interested families can qualify; either by income or by federal assistance programs someone in your household already utilizes. You may qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program if you or someone in your household meets at least one of the following criteria:
- Qualifies for the Lifeline Support For Affordable Communications program
- Receives benefits from 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 school year
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current the current school and 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
More On The Lifeline Support For Affordable Communications Program
The Lifeline Support For Affordable Communications program is an existing program that makes home telephone service, broadband internet service or both bundled services more affordable for low income families. If you’re eligible for the program, you could get up to $9.25 towards your monthly bill. The Lifeline Support For Affordable Communications program is available to households that make less than 135% of the current federal poverty guidelines or when at least one person from your household receives benefits from one of the following federal assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Tribal Programs & live on federally recognized Tribal lands
- Tribal Lifeline
How Does The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Work?
When the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is officially open for applicants, anyone interested in the program will need to apply online through the USAC. From there you’ll enter all your information and choose a participating provider in your area that will service your address. This isn’t a reimbursement or rebate program, so you’ll get the discount included as a line item on your internet bill. You’ll pay your bill directly to your chosen participating internet provider and address any service issues including installation with them. From there your internet provider will make a claim to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to recoup their costs for up to $50 per month or $75 a month on tribal lands.
What Internet Providers Are Participating In The Program?
There’s no shortage of internet providers that will be participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. From fiber optic, satellite internet, to DSL and mobile broadband; there are internet providers big and small participating in the program. Some of the internet providers currently signed up to participate are:
- Charter Spectrum
- Comcast Xfinity
- Ting Internet
- Ziply Fiber
The program is open to all broadband internet providers who offer minimum download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps to their customers. Although the Lifeline Support For Affordable Communications Program is the easiest way to qualify for the Emergency Benefit Broadband Program, it does not exclude internet service providers that are not signed up to participate in that program. More internet providers may be added to the eligibility list shortly before the launch of the program. All interested providers are encouraged to sign up as soon as they can.
How Long Can I Use Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Benefits?
Unfortunately, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is only a temporary initiative to help struggling households during the coronavirus pandemic. If you qualify for the program, you’ll be able to use Emergency Broadband Benefit Program benefits for up to six months after the Department Of Health And Human Services officially declares the coronavirus pandemic over or until the funding runs out, whichever happens first. The program was allotted a $3.2 billion budget, but there’s no telling how long that funding can feasibly last for or how much longer the coronavirus will be a danger.
When Can I Sign Up?
Unfortunately, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program hasn’t been completely set up or taking applications at this time. The FCC or Federal Communications Commission is still working out the details of the program. No official or tentative start date has been announced, but rest assured the FCC is working on making the program available as quickly as they possibly can. Stay tuned for additional information as it is released.
If you’re one of millions of Americans who are currently at risk of digital disconnection, we recommend not to hesitate or wait for this program to be approved. There may be other resources available to your family to keep you online through other federal benefit programs and nonprofit companies. Here are some internet options you may have available to you:
- Lifeline Support For Affordable Communications Program
- PCs For People