Post Tech Policy in the Pandemic

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a Glimpse of a Truly Connected Country

May 12, 2021 , , , ,
ebb logo in the sky above people

This week, eligible Americans can apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) – a direct payment from the government to subsidize broadband. It will provide a discount of up to $50 per month (or $75 per month for those on Tribal lands) to help struggling families and students to pay for broadband access during the pandemic recovery. The Federal Communications Commission is running this short-term program to make internet services affordable for the people who need it the most, when they need it the most. In addition to the $50 monthly broadband subsidy, households can get one discounted laptop, desktop, or tablet.

The financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many to choose between keeping their broadband service and feeding their families. Moreover, the pandemic has conclusively proven that broadband access is a necessity to participate in the economy, access school and health care, and connect to loved ones.

The EBB program marks an unprecedented step in ending inequitable access to broadband that hurts low-income people, rural residents, and people of color the most. Even before the pandemic, members of those groups faced difficulty accessing affordable broadband. The situation has only worsened as the pandemic and the recession have dragged on.

The EBB program is an important advance in ensuring that everyone can access broadband at fair prices. This $3.2 billion initiative can and will make a difference in people’s lives by securing affordable broadband access. Moving forward, Congress and the FCC can build on the success of the EBB to create a permanent subsidy for low-income consumers to keep all households connected. A long-term subsidy would mean that low-income families aren’t stuck making difficult choices between staying connected to modern society or buying groceries. No one should be forced to enter their post-pandemic life without the tools they need to participate in the modern economy.

Am I eligible?

Registration is open TODAY, May 12! If you are a participant in the FCC’s Lifeline program, then you are automatically eligible and just need to opt-in with a verified internet service provider. But there are many others who qualify besides Lifeline participants. For example, if you are going to college using a federal Pell Grant, have a student in your home who gets free/reduced price meals at school, or have applied for unemployment benefits because of the pandemic, you are eligible! Also, one doesn’t need to be a U.S. citizen to get this benefit. Those without social security numbers are still welcome to apply. Check EBBhelp.org to find out if you’re eligible and to learn what documents you’ll need to apply.

How does it work?

Once you’re approved by the FCC, your participating broadband service provider will receive the subsidy. That means the funds won’t go directly to you, but you’ll see the benefit in your monthly bill – it’ll be up to $50 cheaper than usual.

You’ll need to make sure that your broadband provider is participating in the program, so check here to verify which providers in your area are accepting the benefit. Not every broadband provider is offering a discounted desktop, laptop, or tablet. If they are, you’ll pay between $10-50 to your provider to receive a device, and the government will then reimburse your provider for some of the cost of that device.

You can begin your application with the Universal Service Administrative Company at GetEmergencyBroadband.org. If you know someone who might benefit from the EBB program, then let them know about it! The subsidy is available as long as funds last.


About Alyssa Martindale

Alyssa is a Communications Intern at Public Knowledge. She has previously interned at the State Policy and Government Relations team at Deloitte and as a Conference Fellow at J Street. She is a senior at the George Washington University, where she studies International Affairs and Security Policy. When she isn't watching Senate Commerce Committee hearings, Alyssa is most likely cooking or baking in her tiny kitchen.