Press Release Rural Broadband Access

Public Knowledge Welcomes FCC Launch of New $50 Broadband Subsidy To Connect Struggling Families

May 12, 2021 , , ,

Today, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to provide qualifying households $50 discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer, laptop, or tablet. The program created by Congress subsidizes broadband and device payments for low-income consumers or families hit hard by the pandemic, including students and the unemployed.

The program follows several months of advocacy from Public Knowledge and other advocates, including an early proposal for an emergency broadband subsidy by Senior Vice President Harold Feld; letters encouraging Congress to pass a subsidy; and a letter urging the FCC to make it easy for anyone who needs help getting connected to apply for the subsidy program. Public Knowledge applauds Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for launching the program with the speed and agility that this national emergency requires, maximizing the program’s consumer benefits during a time when no American can afford to be left without a broadband connection.

The following can be attributed to Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“For too long, many consumers couldn’t afford to connect to broadband. That was clear and problematic before the pandemic, and became even clearer during the pandemic as millions lost their jobs while so many aspects of daily life shifted online.

“This benefit offers hope for those families who have had to go without broadband during the time when they need it the most. It represents the ability to take online classes, to work safely from home, and to access medical care and vaccine information. It represents hope that families no longer have to forgo food or other essentials just to pay the internet bill. And it demonstrates that the government has a vital role to play to ensure that everyone, regardless of their income, where they reside, or what they look like, has access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband — the essential utility of our time.

“Now that a bipartisan Congress and the FCC have worked tirelessly to create this benefit, everyone with the ability to do so must make sure that those who are eligible know about the benefit and how to apply. We look forward to doing our part to promote the Emergency Broadband Benefit and to bring our nation one step closer towards closing the digital divide.” 

You may view our recent letter urging Congress to provide broadband subsidies for consumers during the pandemic, as well as our letter urging the FCC to adopt self-certification to determine consumer eligibility for the EBB program, for more information. You may also view our blog post, “The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a Glimpse of a Truly Connected Country,” for more details on how the EBB program works.