The Federal Communications Commission has voted to formally adopt a Report and Order that establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program uses $3.2 billion in Federal funding to provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.
“Today the Federal Communications Commission made history,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Feb. 25. “It adopted rules for the nation’s largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service. This $3.2 billion program was designed to lower the cost of high-speed internet service for those struggling to get the connectivity they need during the ongoing pandemic. It’s a challenge that is all too real for too many families.”
The program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands. Additionally, it will give households a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet. The program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the need for affordable broadband particularly acute, as people are increasingly relying on the internet for distance learning, telework, and telemedicine.
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” Rosenworcel said. “It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries. In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.”
Despite the measure just being approved by the agency on Feb. 25, Rosenworcel said the FCC is already working to get the program up and running. She said she expects it to be open to eligible households within the next 60 days as more and more providers sign up and program systems are put in place. “I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly, and the right way,” Rosenworcel said.