The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and utility regulators are highlighting the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) telecom programs for low-income consumers as part of Lifeline Awareness Week, which runs through Friday.
Part of the reason the regulators may be seeking to heighten lifeline awareness is that many eligible consumers have yet to avail themselves of some these programs. Most of the EBB funding still remained — $2.7B of the $3.2B — as of Sept. 19, according to the USAC claims tracker.
The program was launched in May in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of helping families struggling to afford internet service, which became increasingly important for online learning and remote work.
Families that qualify for Lifeline, a 25+ year program that provides a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers, automatically qualify for the EBB program. Lifeline provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on qualifying voice and broadband services for eligible low-income subscribers and up to $34.25 per month for subscribers on qualifying Tribal lands.
In most cases, Lifeline qualifiers just need to opt-in with their current Lifeline provider or contact a different participating provider and choose an eligible plan to start receiving the monthly EBB benefit.
The EBB program offers a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Additionally, eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price, according to a press release about the FCC low-income telecom programs.