The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday that the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program enrolled more than one million households in the first week of the program’s existence. Households in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa are now on the subsidy program initiated by Congress.
This program shells out up to $3.2 billion worth of consumer discounts on broadband services and equipment like computers and tablets.
Eligible households can now receive on their broadband bill a discount of up to $50 per month, or $75 on qualifying Tribal lands. They will also be eligible for 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. The federal government makes up the difference with tax dollars with funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Congress outlined eligibility as follows: – if one person in the household:
- Demonstrates low income, at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty level;
- Participates in assistance programs including SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
- Relies on free and reduced-price school meals;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Suffered a large loss in income during pandemic due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
- Meets other eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
Over 900 broadband providers have agreed to take part in the program, which allows new, prior, and existing customers of the providers to take advantage of the subsidy benefit. Households can qualify several ways such as through their use of existing assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline or if a child relies on reduced-price school meals programs.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is also available to households who are eligible for a broadband provider’s existing COVID relief program, to those who have received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year, and to those low-income households who suffered “a large loss in income” during the pandemic due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020.
“The high demand we’ve seen for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program demonstrates what many of us already knew to be true – too many families are struggling to get online, even in 2021. Help is here. As an agency, we’re continuing to focus our efforts on reaching as
many communities as possible, so they can get the support they need,” Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said of the enrollment numbers.
This pandemic-related program will continue until the $3.2 billion in federal funding runs out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.