The Federal Communications Commission last week established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program will provide $3.2 billion in discounts on the internet service bills of qualifying households as well as opportunities to receive discounts on a computer or tablet.
The discounts include up to $50 a month for broadband service and up to $75 a month if the household is on tribal lands. Eligible households also can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet. The discounts are available to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with children who receive free or reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection. It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a WiFi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries,” commented FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country. That’s why our work is already underway to get this program up and running, and I expect it to be open to eligible households within the next 60 days as providers sign up and program systems are put in place. I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly, and the right way.”
Several communications-related organizations hailed the program’s launch. “We commend the FCC's adoption of a thoughtful and balanced framework for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, an important initiative that will help ensure millions of Americans can use broadband to work and learn from home during the pandemic,” stated NCTA in a press statement. “We will continue working with the FCC and other stakeholders to keep existing broadband customers connected and reach those that have yet to subscribe. Today's action also represents a real accomplishment given the voluminous record and significant time constraints involved. Acting Chair Rosenworcel, her fellow commissioners, and FCC staff deserve great credit for the open and efficient process that led to this result.”
“ACA Connects commends Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and her fellow commissioners for their unanimous, bipartisan vote on final rules for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. We are pleased that the commissioners were able to find common ground on rules that will promote swift access to robust broadband services for households that are struggling financially during COVID-19,” added ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. “We are particularly encouraged by public statements suggesting that the order takes steps to promote participation in this program from small and rural wireline providers that are often the only source of robust connectivity in their communities. We applaud the commissioners and their staffs for their hard work to meet the statutory deadline, and we look forward to reviewing the Order upon release.”