Emergency Broadband Benefit program

FCC program to help families afford internet access during pandemic
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By Rob Webber - Last updated on

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The Emergency Broadband Benefit - or EBB - is a temporary program designed to assist people with the cost of internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program was launched by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) on May 12th, 2021 and is being administered by the company that handles Lifeline, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

The EBB is intended to help low-income families and individuals access the internet for things like job searches, healthcare, and virtual school.

Eligible households will receive a $50 monthly discount on their internet service bill for the duration of the EBB program.

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About Emergency Broadand Benefit

What services are eligible?

The EBB can be applied to your home broadband internet service or cell phone plans from participating providers.

If your plan costs more than $50 you are responsible for the remainder of your bill.

Can I use it for my current plan?

The EBB is available to virtually all eligible households including prior, current, and new customers. Each participating provider has instructions on how to enroll and how to sign up for their internet services if you're a new customer.

Can the EBB be applied to a bundle?

The Emergency Broadband Benefit can be used with an internet and voice/text bundle. However if your bundle also includes cable TV service you are responsible for the entire TV portion of your bill.

What is the device benefit?

The EBB includes a device benefit that can be applied to a laptop, computer, or tablet. The device must be provided by your broadband internet or wireless company. Providers that supply a connected device to you receive a $100 reimbursement. You must contribute at least $10 but less than $50 to the device cost.

The device discount cannot be applied to cell phones, smartphones, or phablets. You can find out more information about this discount in the FCC's Emergency Broadband Benefit consumer FAQ.

How to qualify Emergency Broadband Benefit

In order to be eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit you or a household member must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Have income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Participate in an assistance program like Medicaid, SNAP, or Lifeline
  • Be approved to receive free or reduced cost meals through the school breakfast/lunch program during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year
  • Receive a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Have experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 - and your total household income in 2020 was at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
  • Meet eligibility requirements for a participating provider's existing low income or COVID-19 program

Only one person in your household needs to meet one of these requirements. Even if you do not qualify you may be eligible through a child or dependent.

Each household can only receive one Emergency Broadband Benefit discount, even if multiple household members qualify. You can apply it to a home or wireless internet connection but not both.

Even if you have gotten another job since your income loss in 2020 you may still qualify for the EBB if your income is within the eligibility guidelines.

What if I have Lifeline?

You can receive the EBB if you already participate in Lifeline. You can apply for the internet discount with your current Lifeline provider or through another participating provider.

It's important to note that Lifeline customers are not automatically enrolled into the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. You still need to apply separately for the EBB then enroll through your participating provider.

What about apartments with shared internet?

Multi-unit dwellings like apartment buildings and group homes may qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Contact your building or property manager and ask them to talk to the internet provider to see about taking advantage of the EBB.

Applying for Emergency Broadband Benefit

Applying for the EBB is typically a two-step process. First you verify your eligibility through the Get Emergency Broadband website. Then you'll either follow your existing provider's instructions to enroll with them, or you can find qualifying internet service by visiting the FCC's resource for participating providers.

You can also call 833-511-0311 to get a mail-in application.

When verifying your eligibility you may be asked to provide documents like a benefit verification letter, Pell Grant award letter, etc. in order to prove that you qualify for the EBB.

Emergency Broadband Benefit providers

As of this writing 825+ fixed and mobile internet providers have signed up to participate in the EBB. Participants currently include major providers like Xfinity and Verizon plus others like Windstream and Frontier.

Emergency Broadband Benefits providers offering eligible cell phones plans include AT&T Wireless and Cricket Wireless.

You can check out all participating internet providers by state on the FCC participating provider website.

As the program gets underway more providers are signing up, so keep checking back if you don't see yours. Existing customers should also check directly with their internet provider to find out if they're offering the program.

Emergency Broadband Benefit term

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program is funded with 3.2 billion dollars designated through the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. It will continue until that money runs out or for six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic, whichever comes first.

There are a few important things to know before the EBB program expires:

  • Participating providers must notify customers when their last month of the benefit is going to occur.
  • You will have to opt in with your internet provider if you want to keep your services after the program ends.
  • Even if you already had internet service before signing up for the EBB you will still have to opt in to keep your services once the program ends.

How Emergency Broadband Benefit funds are administered

You might be wondering if you will receive the Emergency Broadband Benefit directly. The answer is no. The EBB is sent to your internet provider and they apply it as a discount on your bill.

If your internet plan costs less than the $50 monthly subsidy you will not receive the remaining funds. If it costs less than the monthly benefit amount then you will receive your plan for free until the program ends.

Enhanced benefit amount for tribal land residents

Customers who qualify for the EBB and live on Tribal land will receive a $75 monthly discount rather than $50.

You do not have to be a member of a Tribe in order to receive the enhanced benefit amount. Any eligible customer living on Tribal land receives $75 per month toward their internet bill.

What if I don't qualify for EBB?

If you don't qualify as low income, there are still plenty of other ways to cut up to $600 per year off your cell phone bill.

Save up to $600 per year by switching to a low-cost carrier

Low cost carriers called MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) sell cheap cell phone plans on the major wireless networks. These carriers run on the very same networks that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon use.

Choose from prepaid plans, unlimited data plans and many more. You can save up to $600 a year per line without giving up your network.

Rob Webber
Rob Webber

Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.