Many, many readers have asked us about the future of the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit enacted to help families and households struggling to pay for internet service during the coronavirus pandemic. It gave qualified households a discount of up to $50 per month on broadband services (and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands).
Officials said from day one that the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) would be a temporary program, but no one knew when it would end.
Now we know. It will end on March 1, 2022. But fear not because it will immediately be replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on that date. And the news just keeps getting better because the ACP is a permanent program and it is much better funded than the EBB.
Here’s how the Federal Communications Commission explains it all:
On November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act) became law. The Infrastructure Act provides $14.2 billion to modify and extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program) to a longer-term broadband affordability program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
In other words, they changed the name and bolstered the budget, but everything else pretty much remains the same.
The EBB program officially ends on December 31, 2021, but there will be a 60-day transition period from the EBB Program to the ACP for households fully enrolled in the EBB Program as of December 31, 2021. That 60-day period will begin on December 31, 2021 and end on March 1, 2022. The ACP will also begin to accept enrollments on December 31, 2021. IMPORTANT NOTE: You must enroll in the ACP program or your service will end at the end on March 31, 2022.
Let’s go back to the FCC for a few more details:
Households fully enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program as of December 31, 2021 will continue to receive their current monthly benefit until March 1, 2022. More information about steps current Emergency Broadband Benefit recipients must take to continue receiving the Affordable Connectivity Program benefit after March 1, 2022 will be available in the coming weeks.
This is great news for everyone. The $14 billion budget ensures that everyone who needs internet service can get it. And the long-term commitment assures that they’ll keep it as long as they need it.
Once again, let’s go back to the FCC for the specifics:
The benefit will provide a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household…
There are a lot of different ways to qualify. The FCC spells them out in great detail. Your family will qualify if it:
- Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines;
- Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
- Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
- Is 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, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program.
Hundreds and hundreds of internet service providers in every state have already agreed to participate in this program. You can find a complete list of the service providers in your state on the FCC website: https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers