If you are struggling to afford the cost of Internet service or an Internet-connected device, help is on the way. A new Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (often called the EBB program) was created by the Federal Communications Commission to help people pay for Internet costs during the pandemic. This is a temporary program that will be available to eligible households as soon as May 1, 2021.
The EBB program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month ($75 per month for eligible households on tribal lands) towards broadband service. It will also provide a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet for customers of Internet service who contribute $10–$50 toward the purchase price.
Who’s eligible to apply?
If you are already enrolled in an Internet discount program, you are eligible for the EBB. Current Lifeline program customers (see note below) are eligible to enroll, as well as households enrolled in any other COVID-19 or low-income discount program through an Internet Service Provider. Current customers of Internet service can participate in the EBB even if they have unpaid Internet service bills or bad credit.
If you are not already enrolled in one of these programs, your household is eligible if one member of the household meets one of the criteria below:
- Received or receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, during the 2019–2020 or 2020–2021 school years.
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current year.
- Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
The customer approval criteria will allow applicants to confirm identification with a variety of documents, including a government-issued ID, passport, driver’s license, or Individual Taxpayer Identification (ITIN) documentation.
How do I sign up?
Applications will open soon. If you currently have an Internet service provider, ask them if they are participating. If they are, they can help you apply. Otherwise, apply online or by mail at GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
Enroll early—the EBB program is temporary!
The EBB program will end when the funding runs out or when federal Health and Human Services officials determine the COVID-19 emergency has ended, whichever comes first. The program is currently funded at a level expected to last about six months. When the program does end, everyone will be notified ahead of time, so it is not a surprise.
Note to Lifeline customers: The Lifeline program provides discounts on phone and broadband service for households making less than 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (about $29,300 in annual income for a household of three) or receiving assistance from federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Medicaid; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Veterans Pension and Survival Benefits; and tribal programs.
Contributor Emily Grossman is a Policy and Strategy Advisor in the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Community Services and Housing Division.