What Is the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (also called the EBB Program) was created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help low-income families stay connected to the internet during the pandemic.
If your family is eligible for the EBB Program, you can receive up to $50 toward your monthly internet bill (or up to $75 a month if you live on Tribal lands). There’s also a stipend toward qualifying connected devices, including laptops and tablets.
It’s expected that applications for the program will open before the end of April 2021. So we’ll keep this post updated with the latest information, and for now here’s what we know about the EBB Program.
Who’s eligible for the program?
To qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, at least one person in your household needs to meet the following requirements:
- Participates in the free and reduced-price school lunch or school breakfast program (including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision), or participated in the 2019–2020 school year
- Had a substantial loss of income, such as a job loss or layoff, since February 29, 2020, and your total household income in 2020 was below: $99,000 for single filers or $198,000 for joint filers
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
- Is eligible for a participating internet provider’s low-income or COVID-19 program
And if you already qualify for the Lifeline federal assistance program, you should be eligible for the EBB Program too. Here are the ways you can qualify for the Lifeline program:
- Your income is 135% or less than federal poverty guidelines
- You or someone in your household (including children and dependents) participate in one of the following federal programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), or Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- You live on Tribal lands and at least one person in your household (including children and dependents) participates in Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Head Start (only if your household meets the income qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
How do you apply for the Lifeline program?
To apply for Lifeline, you can fill out an application online through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) or mail one in.
Additionally, if your internet service provider (ISP) participates in Lifeline, they may have ways for you to apply through them.
What benefits does the program provide?
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides up to $50 toward an eligible household’s monthly internet bill—or up to $75 for those living on Tribal lands.
Plus, eligible households can also receive up to $100 toward one laptop, desktop computer, or tablet that’s purchased through their internet provider. But, you must pay at least $10–$50 for the device to receive the discount.
It’s important to note that the $50, $75, or $100 subsidies aren’t paid directly to you. Instead, they go to your internet provider, which should then discount your service or the cost of the device you’re purchasing. That also means that if your internet plan costs less than $50 or $75, you won’t be able to pocket the extra money.
Also, each eligible household gets only one monthly discount on their internet service and only one device discount.
How long do the benefits last?
If your household is eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, you’ll continue to receive your monthly bill discount until the Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund is used up or up to six months after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your ISP is required to give you notice about the last date when your full discount applies to your bill—or if the program ends in the middle of your billing cycle, the last date when a partial discount applies to your bill. You should also receive info on how much your internet plan will cost after the program ends.
If you don’t change or cancel your internet plan, your ISP can charge you the full price after the EBB Program ends.
How can you apply?
The FCC is still working with internet providers to roll out the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, but expects applications to open before the end of April 2021.
Applications for the EBB Program will be submitted through the GetEmergencyBroadband.org site or by mail. Mail applications should be sent along with proof of your eligibility to the following address:
Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742
Additionally, if your ISP is participating in the EBB Program, they may have ways for you to apply through them. It looks like the USAC has an easy search tool to find participating ISPs in your area—though for now the tool is unavailable until the program officially opens.
Which internet providers are participating?
There are more than 300 different internet providers approved to participate in the EBB Program.
The approved providers differ by state, and some providers are offering the benefit in some states but not others. (For example, we noticed that Xfinity is participating in California but not in Utah.) You can check out which providers are participating in your state on the FCC’s site.
Here are some of the bigger service providers participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program:
|Provider||Also offering connected devices?|
|Cable One (Sparklight)||No|
|Sparklight (Cable One)||No|
|Verizon Fios Home Internet and Verizon HSI||No|
And while it seems like the majority of providers aren’t offering connected devices, the organization human-I-T is offering to help get your hands on connected devices no matter where you live. It’s listed as an EBB Program participant, so we recommend contacting human-I-T if you need help getting a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.
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What if I haven’t been able to pay my internet bill? Do I still qualify?
As long as you meet one or more of the eligibility requirements for the EBB Program, you’re still able to receive the benefit even if your account is past due.
On a similar note, your ISP cannot require you to wait for a period of time if you’ve used its service before. And you cannot be required to pay an early termination fee (ETF) if you later cancel your contract once the EBB Program fund is depleted.
What if I share an address with another family, do we both qualify for the EBB Program?
Thanks to the Lifeline program’s definition of “household,” both families can qualify for the EBB Program as long as each family contributes to and shares the income and expenses of only their individual household.
Adults with no or minimal income who receive financial support are considered dependents in a household. And children under the age of 18 who are living with their parent or guardian are also considered dependents.
What if I pay my landlord for internet service, can I still qualify for the program?
As long your household consents to the landlord seeking EBB Program benefits for your internet service, you can still qualify for the program. Your landlord must show proof of consent to the ISP, so be prepared to provide that if asked.
Can I participate in the program if I already receive a Lifeline discount?
Yes, you can participate in both the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the Lifeline program for the same or different services.
Do I need to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program with a social security number?
You can choose to not apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program with the last four digits of your social security number and instead can provide the following forms of ID:
- Government-issued ID, such as a passport or driver’s license
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) documentation
Can I apply the program benefit toward my bundled internet and TV or phone?
Your ISP can apply the Emergency Broadband Benefit to your bundled internet, voice, and texting services, as well as any equipment you need for those services. The benefit can’t be applied to TV service, though. So if you bundle your internet with TV, you’ll have to pay the TV part of your bill out of your own pocket.
Can the EBB Program benefit be applied to my modem or router rental?
Yes, your ISP can apply the benefit to your rented router, modem, hotspot device, or antenna as long as those rental fees are charged in addition to your internet service.
Everyone attending my child’s school receives free lunch. Do we still qualify for the benefit?
Yes, even if your child’s entire school or school district receives free lunch, your family is still eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
I live on Tribal lands but I’m not a member of the Tribe. Can I still get the discount?
Yes, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Tribal discount is available to anyone living on Tribal lands, and you don’t need to be a member of a Tribe.