Twenty years ago, broadband was a luxury. Today, it’s a necessity. Without it many services are unavailable, education is restricted, cheap entertainment is difficult to come by, and you are unable to work remotely online. You can survive without it, but it makes life difficult and even isolating. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many families have received a substantial loss of income, and everything but housing and groceries has become non-essential.
What is the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a new program introduced by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) worth a total of $3.2 million to help households that are struggling to afford broadband and internet service in the wake of the pandemic. It aims to supply these households with the internet they need to be able to work, access healthcare services, online education, entertainment, and more.
How does the Emergency Broadband Benefit work?
Eligible households will be able to attain a discount of up to $50 per month, or up to $75 per month for those on qualifying Tribal land (you can find which Tribal lands are eligible here). That money will be paid by the FCC directly to your provider, so you won’t have to do anything for the duration of the program.
Who is eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
Eligible households must have one member of the household that meets any one of the following criteria:
- Have experienced a substantial loss of income due to furlough or job loss since February 29 2020, and the household had a total income of less than $99,000 for single filers or $198,000 for joint filers
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
- As an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- Currently a participant in other assistance programs, such as SNAP, Lifeline, or Medicaid
- Approved to receive the free and reduced-price school lunch program or school breakfast program through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year
- Meet the eligibility criteria for any participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program
Other Benefits of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
All eligible households are also able to access a $100 one-time discount to purchase a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer from participating providers, provided they can contribute at least $10 (and no more than $50) toward the purchase price.
How do I apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
Applying for the program is easy and straightforward. You have 3 options:
Speak directly with any participating provider to learn about their application process (you can find participating providers here)
Call 833-511-0311 and ask for a mail-in application. You will then need to return with copies of documents that prove your eligibility. This will be in the form of a benefit award letter, statement of benefits, benefits approval letter, or benefit verification letter from another benefit program, such as SNAP or Medicaid. Alternatively, you can use a Federal Pell Grant screenshot from the student’s StudentAid.gov dashboard for the current year, or an email from the Department of Education to the student about the EBB Program.
The easiest way is to apply online at GetEmergencyBroadband.org where you’ll be able to find your nearest participating provider and start the application process.
Am I eligible even if I have an outstanding balance with that provider or have been with them before?
Yes, any eligible household can apply and receive the benefit through any participating provider, regardless of outstanding balances or arrears. You can apply and receive the benefit whether you’ve been with your nearest participating provider in the past or not.
Will being on any other benefit programs make me ineligible?
No – you can receive the Emergency Broadband Benefit at the same time as receiving Lifeline benefits, free or reduced-price school meal programs, and other benefits you may be able to get in your area.
The EBB program will help thousands of families across the country access essential broadband for free, which can give them more wiggle room in their monthly budget. If you believe you qualify, don’t hesitate to apply. You can find out more here: GetEmergencyBroadband.org.