The FCC is circulating a Report and Order for administering the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program would provide $3.2 billion for qualifying households with assistance on their Internet bills and in acquiring a computer or tablet.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Eligible households are able to get a discount on service of $50 – and $75 on tribal lands. Some connected devices also will be discounted during the COVID-19 emergency period. Participating providers will be reimbursed for what they provide.
FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit
The proposed rules in the Report and Order:
- Opens the program to all types of broadband providers;
- Requires providers to deliver the qualifying broadband service to eligible households to receive reimbursement from the Program
- Encourages eligible households to affirmatively indicate their interest in the program.
The report and order stipulates that households are eligible when a either a member of the household qualifies for the FCC’s Lifeline program, participates in the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, received a Pell Grant, or is eligible for providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
“No one should have to choose between paying their internet bill or paying to put food on the table,” Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release about the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit report and order. “With the help of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, we have a new way for households to access virtual learning, for patients to connect to telehealth providers, and for those struggling in this pandemic to learn new online skills and seek their next job.”
The FCC is moving quickly despite the change in administrations. On January 4, the FCC released a list of questions aimed at designing an effective Emergency Broadband Benefits program. Earlier this month, the commission held a virtual roundtable with stakeholders who offered their views on program implementation.