The 2021 Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Breakdown

by | Apr 5, 2021 | CBO, Digitally Underserved, FCC, Internet Access

mohuman and collaborators have urged Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide emergency financial help to low-income families and individuals to secure internet access for distance learning, telework, and telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are providing this information to help our Community Based Organization (CBO) friends navigate the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) to help our digitally underserved residents get connected to the internet.

The EBB program was enacted on February 26, 2021 by the FCC and provides $3.2 billion for qualifying households for:

1. A discount from $10 to $50 a month for broadband internet service

2. And up to $100 for an internet-enabled device.

The FCC pays this money to a participating internet service provider and not to the household.

Which households are eligible for the EBB discount?

At least one household member must meet the following criteria:

  • Qualifies for the federal Lifeline program for discounted phone service
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award 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 tax filers and $198,000 for joint filers
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating internet service providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

How long does the EBB discount last?

This program is temporary and is administered by the FCC though the Service Administrative Company (USAC) until the $3.2 billion is used up or six months after the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends. Before the program ends, participants must opt-in to continue internet service without the discount or transition to a new service.

Which internet service provider in my community is participating?

Check this FCC list to see if the internet provider(s) in your area is participating in the EBB.

If you need to find out which internet service provider(s) serves your area,  use Everyoneon. 

When can people sign up?

We are awaiting more guidance from the FCC and will share this information when it is released. EBB signup for consumers is expected begin at the start of May 2021.

How do people sign up?

If a household is already a Lifeline participant, they will not need to apply for the EBB. They will only need to opt-in to a plan provided by their current internet provider or request enrolment in the program.

If a household is not a participant in the Lifeline program, they must apply for the EBB though the National Lifeline Verifier. They will need to provide their full name, date of birth, address and one of these identification documents: Social Security Number, Government-issued ID, Passport, Driver’s License, Taxpayer Identification Number, or Tribal identification number.

Things to watch out for

CBOs should communicate actively with residents, area ISPs, employers, and school districts to help ensure that households choose internet service and devices that meet their needs for school, work, or telehealth services. Let residents know to prepare for signup before May 2021.

1. Internet Speed

There are no minimum device standards or broadband internet service speeds required for eligibility of internet service providers to participate in the EBB program. The FCC currently defines broadband speed as 25Mbps/3Mbps (25 Megabits per second download speed/3 Megabits per second upload speed). We advocate for higher speeds especially for households with more than one person using the internet at the same time.

2. Devices

The EBB monthly $50 benefit off the price of broadband internet service also includes equipment such as leased antennas or routers. This excludes optional add-ons such as wi-fi extenders or repeaters.

The EBB one-time $100 benefit off a single connected device per household can include a laptop computer, desktop computer or tablet from a participating EBB provider. The household must pay a co-pay of between $10 and $50. This excludes smartphones or tablets that can make cellular calls.

3. Bundled Offers

The EBB benefit is not eligible for bundled offerings that include video service, but it is eligible for bundles that include voice or text.

4. Debt

Participation by any household member in the Lifeline program and the existence of any debt to a broadband internet service provider do not impact eligibility. Households may receive the Lifeline benefit and the EBB simultaneously.

5. Termination of Service

Participating internet service providers must certify that eligible households may not be charged an early termination fee if they cancel their service while receiving the EBB discount.

6. End of the EBB Program

There are concerns about the program ending and transitioning people out of the EBB program to higher bills. The FCC and USAC are committed to providing regular assessments and updates on the fund’s usage and predict when the fund will be exhausted. We have heard that a publicly available tracker will forecast when claims can no longer be fully paid about 75-90 days from the end of the EBB program.

Internet service providers must notify and gain consent from consumers at sign-up that the benefit is temporary and that consumers will be subject to regular terms and conditions at the EBB’s end.

Providers will also be required to notify consumers on bills or other monthly communication of the end date or last service month for the benefit. They will also have to share the new service cost without the EBB at least 30 days before a billing change. Subscribers must opt-in to either continue the same service without the discount or transition to a new service.

We will keep you updated as soon as we know more of the end date.

7. Complaints

Internet service providers are not required to provide notice to consumers on how to file complaints, so CBOs should provide information to residents about the FCC’s complaint hotline at 1-888-225-5322 or the online complaint filing system.

Please share with city and municipal governments, housing agencies, schools, food banks, faith-based organizations, clinics, and other organizations providing services to low-income residents to ensure that they have timely, useful information about the EBB.

This information may change as the FCC provides more guidance. We will be on top of any changes and when and how to enroll. We will also update everyone about the end of the EBB Program (or continuation) as soon as the FCC releases that information.

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