FCC Adopts Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Rules, Providing Internet Service Relief to Low-Income Households

Last Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. This $3.2 billion program provides a $50 monthly subsidy for eligible low-income households and a $75 monthly subsidy for households on tribal lands to purchase a broadband connection. It also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

Households eligible for the benefit include those participating in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband subscriber; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-priced lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the past year.

Statement of Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director

“Millions of Americans have had their lives dramatically restructured as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, access to high-speed broadband is more critical than ever. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide much needed relief to address the connectivity needs of low-income households and represents a step forward in closing the digital divide.

“Common Cause specifically advocated for the program to implement parameters facilitating competition, multi-lingual outreach to community stakeholders, clear end of program messaging to avoid bill shock, and alternative verification processes to reduce barriers to entry for eligible households. The FCC heard these concerns and took them into account in standing up the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. These protections will allow for a more inclusive program and ensure there will not be an unnecessary burden on the millions of households who need affordable broadband.”

“We commend the FCC for doing the work needed to get this new program off the ground and look forward to its success.”