The FCC has launched the Affordable Connectivity Program, which will pay up to $30 toward the cost of monthly broadband service for low-income households ($75 for tribal recipients). The Affordable Connectivity Program has a budget of $14.2 billion and replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program.
The EBB program was put in place last year to help households connect or retain connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It saw wide enrollment.
The Affordable Connectivity Program was established in the infrastructure bill adopted late last year. The law required the FCC to transition from the EBB to the new program at the beginning of 2022.
There are two key differences between the EBB and the new program. First, while the previous program paid up to $50 per household for broadband service, that benefit has now been reduced to $30. Second, households that have experienced a loss of income from the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer eligible solely on that basis.
The FCC lists the new eligibility criteria in a press release. Households must meet at least one of the criteria to be eligible:
- Income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines
- Participation in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline
- Participation in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Approval to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year
- Receipt of a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
- Meeting the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program
Like the EBB, the Affordable Connectivity Program also will pay up to $100 per household toward the cost of a computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute between $10 and $50 toward the purchase price.
The FCC has not finalized final rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program, but in an order adopted December 30, the commission notes that with a few exceptions, the EBB rules will apply to the new program until the rules for the new program are finalized. Details can be found in the order at this link.
AT&T already has announced its participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program and we’re likely to see a barrage of similar announcements over the next week or so.