The FCC unanimously adopted a Report and Order establishing the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and aims to open it to eligible households within 60 days.
The $3.2 billion program provides discounts of as much as $50 on broadband service to qualifying households. The amount is increased to $75 on trial lands. A one-time discount of as much as $100 on equipment purchases also is part of the program.
The program is available to households:
- participating in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider;
- with Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits;
- with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast
- with residents receiving a Pell grant
- with residents who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced during the past year.
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release about the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit report and order. “It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi 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. In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.”
The FCC has stood up the program quickly since funding became available in the COVID-19 relief bill adopted in late December. The Report and Order, which was circulated earlier this week, said that the proposed rules would stipulate that the program be open to all types of broadband providers, require providers to deliver qualifying broadband to eligible households to be reimbursed and encourage eligible households to participate. That followed the release of a list of questions that the FCC released in early January that aimed to mold an effective program.