What Is the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program?

What is the EBB program?

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides a temporary discount on broadband service and connected devices for eligible low-income households. The program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help ensure that families could afford internet access for remote work, school, healthcare and more.

The EBB Program provides a discount of up to $50 per month for broadband services and up to $100 for a one-time purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. The program aims to help connect millions of low-income Americans to reliable high-speed internet during the pandemic. As of October 2021, over 7.6 million households have enrolled in the program.

The EBB Program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and is a temporary emergency measure funded by $3.2 billion allocated by Congress. It is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the FCC. The program will conclude when the fund is expended or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.

The purpose of the EBB Program is to make broadband connectivity more affordable and help low-income families stay connected during the pandemic for critical needs like remote learning, telehealth, and remote work. It aims to bridge the digital divide by removing cost barriers that have prevented many households from subscribing to broadband services.

Who qualifies for the EBB program?

The EBB program has eligibility requirements that must be met in order to qualify for the discount. According to the FCC, you can qualify for the EBB Program if your household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if you participate in certain assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline. There are also eligibility criteria related to substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 due to the pandemic or receiving a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year.

Some of the key eligibility requirements according to the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit page include:

  • Having an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Participating in SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Lifeline
  • Receiving benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision
  • Receiving a Federal Pell Grant for the current award year
  • Experiencing a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 due to job loss or furlough

The FCC provides a full EBB eligibility checklist (PDF) that lists the complete set of criteria. Meeting any one of the requirements can qualify your household for the EBB discount.

How much is the EBB discount?

The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month for broadband service. Eligible households can receive:

Up to a $50 monthly discount on broadband service and associated equipment rentals if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands.

Up to a $75 monthly discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands and you live in a rural area without access to broadband at 25/3 Mbps.

Up to a $100 per household discount on a computer or tablet purchased through a participating provider if you contribute more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price.

A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider if you contribute $50 or more toward the purchase price. Only one monthly service discount and one device discount is allowed per household.

The monthly discount will continue until the earlier of:

6 months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID–19 health emergency.

The date on which the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program exhausts its $3.2 billion in funding.

See the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program page for more details on the monthly discount amount.

What services are covered?

The EBB program covers several types of internet services. According to the FCC, the following broadband services are eligible for the EBB discount:

  • Fixed broadband services such as cable, fiber, and fixed wireless
  • Mobile broadband services provided over cellular networks
  • Bundled service packages that include broadband and other services like phone or television

Specifically, according to the FCC website https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-program, eligible broadband services include:

  • Broadband service purchased separately or bundled with other services
  • Prepaid or postpaid broadband service plans
  • Any speed tier of broadband service
  • Unlimited and limited data plans

The EBB discount can be applied to any internet service offering download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. Slower speed services may also qualify in some cases.

How do I apply?

To apply for the EBB program, you need to contact a participating broadband provider directly. Many providers have online applications available through their websites. When applying, you will need to provide some documents to prove your eligibility.

Required documents include:

  • Proof of income, such as prior year’s tax return, pay stubs, or Social Security statements
  • Proof of participation in an eligible government assistance program, like Medicaid, SNAP, or Lifeline
  • Proof of substantial loss of income since February 2020 due to job loss or furlough
  • Proof the applicant meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program

After submitting an application with eligibility documentation, the participating broadband provider will verify if you qualify for the EBB discount. If approved, the discount will be applied to your monthly bill. You do not need to re-apply each month. The EBB discount will continue until the program ends or funds are exhausted.

For more details on eligibility and required documents, visit the FCC’s EBB program page.

What providers participate?

All internet service providers can voluntarily choose to participate in the EBB program. As of December 31, 2021, over 1,800 providers have enrolled, offering service in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands according to the FCC (Emergency Broadband Benefit Providers).

Some of the major participating providers include:

  • AT&T
  • Spectrum
  • Verizon
  • T-Mobile
  • Comcast
  • Cox

Consumers can check with their local service provider or search the FCC’s list to confirm participation and available discounted plans in their area.

What if I have an outstanding bill?

One of the key benefits of the EBB program is that it can be used to pay down past due balances on internet bills. According to the FCC’s FAQ, eligible consumers can enroll in the EBB program even if they have a past due balance with their provider.

The EBB benefit can be applied retroactively to unpaid broadband bills accrued since March 1, 2020. Up to $100 per month of the EBB discount can be used to pay down these past due balances. This provides relief for households struggling with overdue internet bills and helps reconnect those who’ve been disconnected.

For example, a fact sheet from the City of Seattle confirms that past due balances or unpaid bills do not disqualify someone from the EBB program. The benefit can be used to eliminate or reduce the amount owed.

Essentially, the EBB provides a way for eligible households to catch up on old internet bills they couldn’t afford to pay. This allows low-income families to get reconnected to vital broadband service during the pandemic.

When does the program end?

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program is a temporary program that was set to end on December 31, 2021 (FCC FAQ). However, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act extended it and transitioned the program to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) effective January 1, 2022.

Most EBB households were automatically enrolled into the ACP. They will continue receiving the same monthly ACP benefit they received under Emergency Broadband Benefit until March 1, 2022. After March 1, 2022, participating households will need to opt-in to continue receiving the ACP benefit (FCC).

The Affordable Connectivity Program will continue providing eligible households with discounts on internet service and connected devices until the program fund runs out. At this time, it is not known exactly when ACP funding will be depleted.

What happens after the program ends?

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program is set to end when the fund runs out of money or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner. Once the program ends, low-income households enrolled in the program will have a transition period as the EBB transitions to the longer-term Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The transition plan includes the following key points:

  • EBB households will continue receiving their current monthly benefit until March 1, 2022 (https://www.fcc.gov/consumer-faq-emergency-broadband-benefit).
  • After March 1, 2022, eligible households can qualify for the new ACP benefit of up to $30/month for broadband service (https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit).
  • Households enrolled in both programs will have 60 days to switch providers if their current provider does not participate in ACP.
  • Most EBB households will automatically be enrolled in ACP after the transition period.

The FCC is working closely with providers to ensure a smooth transition to the longer-term ACP program once EBB expires.

Where can I learn more?

There are additional resources available to learn more about the EBB program and get assistance:

  • Visit the FCC’s official EBB website at https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit for program details, FAQs, and more.
  • Call the EBB Support Center at (833) 511-0311 for help with your application or questions about the program.
  • Contact your local library or community center – many are offering assistance with EBB enrollment.
  • Reach out to your internet service provider – most participating companies have dedicated EBB support teams.
  • Your state or local government may also have dedicated offices or resources for the EBB program.

With several options for help, there are many ways to get your questions answered and get signed up for the affordable internet service discounts from the EBB program.

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