Lots of low-income Americans just can’t afford the typical monthly broadband internet service. They are forced to do without at a time when internet is more vital than ever.
Well, those days are over — temporarily, at least — because the government is now offering $50 per month discounts for anyone who qualifies (and you’d be surprised how easy it is to qualify). It’s called the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB). And it’s been developed just to help out those Americans who have suffered because of the Covid pandemic.
Thanks to the Emergency Broadband Benefit all eligible households will receive a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service (and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands). You can also get a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers (certain conditions apply).
We normally shy away from long quotes, but in this case the Federal Communications Commission spells out all the details so completely and so clearly that we are willing to break our own rules and offer you the complete Frequently Asked Questions section from the Federal Communications Commission Emergency Broadband Benefit page:
- Who is eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit? A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
- Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
- Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Experienced a substantial loss of income 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; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
- Can I apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if I have a past due balance with the provider? Yes, eligible consumers with a past due balance or a balance in collections are eligible for the benefit.
- Can I sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if I am already a customer or if I was a customer in the past? Yes, the benefit is available to eligible new, prior and existing customers of participating providers.
- Can my roommate and I each get a monthly discount? The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount per household, which is defined as any individual or group of individuals who are living together at the same address and share income and expenses. Learn more and find a household worksheet at getemergencybroadband.org/do-i-qualify/what-is-a-household
- What is Lifeline and how do I qualify? Lifeline is the FCC’s program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. To participate in the Lifeline program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain Tribal Programs. You can see if you are eligible by reviewing the information available at lifelinesupport.org (click “Do I Qualify?”).
- If I already receive Lifeline benefits will I automatically receive the Emergency Broadband Benefit? No. You must opt-in with your existing provider or request enrollment in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program with a participating broadband provider and chose an eligible service plan. You can choose to receive the benefit from your current Lifeline service provider or another participating provider.
- Can I receive both the Emergency Broadband Benefit and Lifeline benefits at the same time? Yes. You can also combine these benefits with other state and local benefits where available. They can be applied to the same qualifying service or separately to a Lifeline service and an Emergency Broadband Benefit service with the same or different providers. For example, an eligible household could have a Lifeline-supported mobile phone service and a separate home broadband service that is supported through the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
- Everyone at my child’s school receives breakfast and lunch at no cost. Do we qualify? If a school is offering lunch or breakfast free to all students regardless of income based on a program other than the Community Eligibility Provision, such as through COVID-19 waivers extending the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program, then the household would not be eligible through the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program by virtue of an extension of the SSO or SFSP. Households may still enroll in the EBB Program if their school also participates in the Community Eligibility Provision, or the household separately applied for and has been approved for benefits in the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program in 2019-2020 or 2020-2021, or through other bases of eligibility, such as income or participation in SNAP or Medicaid.
- I live in a multi-unit dwelling (for example, an apartment building) and we pay the property manager/landlord a monthly fee for our Internet. Can I get the Emergency Broadband Benefit? Yes. If you qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, talk to your property manager/landlord and ask that they work with their broadband service provider to learn more about the benefits that might be available to you and other eligible residents.
- I participated in a provider’s COVID-19 program in the Spring of 2020, but I am no longer enrolled in that program. Does my past participation in that program qualify me for the Emergency Broadband Benefit? Check with the provider for more information about whether you qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
- Will I be able to use the service and the device if I have a disability? The services and devices will be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. If you have any concerns about whether your broadband service and equipment is accessible, contact the FCC’s Disability Rights office at 202-418-2517 for a voice phone call, at 844-432-2275 by videophone, or by email at DRO@fcc.gov.
If your family has been struggling to afford internet service during the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic, this new Emergency Broadband Benefit is for you. It will make it easier to land new jobs, to contact healthcare providers, to attend virtual classrooms, and lots more.
The benefits are available now, so why wait? Enroll with your favorite service provider today.