Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – What You Need to Know

In an April 29, 2021 press release, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the start of a new program geared toward boosting at-home internet connectivity for thousands of households nationwide. This program – the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – will accomplish this by providing funds to offset the monthly cost of obtaining broadband access through any of several approved providers.

Although this program is not dedicated specifically to educational purposes, it could dramatically assist districts with their efforts to increase student home connectivity. District leaders should take note of this program’s opportunity and make plans to take advantage of its available funds once it opens on May 12, 2021.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – What is It?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the US already faced a significant divide when it came to at-home internet connectivity. This divide became even more apparent as workplaces and schools became fully reliant on at-home internet connections to facilitate learning and labor alike.

Now a full year on, the FCC is taking steps to close that divide by opening the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. This program will offer qualifying participants $50 off their monthly broadband internet bill. Participants will also have an opportunity to apply for other special benefits, including a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for household use.

As a general FCC program, these opportunities are not open exclusively to educational institutions or homes with students. However, educational institutions and their families may still choose to seek out support through this program in order to improve at-home remote and digital learning activities.

Who is Eligible?

Presently, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is open to households that qualify for benefits under other low-income and pandemic relief programs offered by the FCC and the federal government at large. This includes households with:

  • Lifeline participants
  • Medicaid beneficiaries
  • SNAP beneficiaries
  • Kids receiving or who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast
  • Pell grant recipients
  • Individuals who have lost a job or experienced reduced income over the past year 

How do I Sign Up? When Can I Sign Up?

The FCC is opening registration for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on May 12, 2021. At that time, those interested in participating in the program should contact an internet service provider in their state and ask if they can directly enroll through the provider. A list of qualifying broadband service providers in Illinois can be found here.

Alternatively, those wishing to participate in this program can learn more about the application process at https://getemergencybroadband.org. There, you can find an online and paper application for submission without going through a service provider.

Ready to Support Your Funding Acquisition Goals 

The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is ready and willing to help your school district take advantage of any new federal funding geared toward supporting home connectivity, digital learning, and more. Our annual E-Rate application tour, for example, can help schools obtain funds for supporting their digital education infrastructure – including both hardware and internet services.

As the LTC’s Digital Access Coordinator, I can also answer your questions about the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and any other state or federal funding program. Contact me, Mindy Fiscus, at (618) 544-2719 or mfiscus@ltcillinois.org to learn more about what the LTC can do to support your institution’s short- and long-term funding acquisition goals. 

Stay Connected to the Latest Federal Funding and Connectivity Updates

In the coming weeks, the FCC is also expected to announce application procedures for acquiring a new round of E-Rate funding that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (CARES 3). To keep up with the latest, check for regular updates on the LTC’s Connectivity and E-Rate hub or follow the LTC on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find detailed federal and state funding updates from me on the LTC Community.