What Is the Emergency Broadband Benefit and How Do I Get It?

woman smiling and pointing to thought bubble

On May 12, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched its Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) to help certain households pay for internet service. In this guide, we break down exactly what’s in the EBBP and how you can check your eligibility and apply.

What’s In This Guide

What Is the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?

The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is a relief plan intended to help households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, low-income families, and students pay for internet costs. Depending on your level of eligibility, you could get one or more of the following benefits:

  • Up to $50/mo. toward a single broadband internet service
  • Up to $75/mo. toward a single broadband internet service on certain tribal lands
  • Up to $100 discount toward a computer (e.g. laptop, desktop, tablet)

Each qualifying household may only receive an EBB that covers one monthly broadband plan and one device discount.

As it stands, the EBB is a temporary program. So, if you think you may be eligible for benefits, it’s best to take advantage as soon as possible. The Emergency Broadband Benefit will end six months after the pandemic is declared officially over by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or after program funds are used up, whichever comes first.

Note:

This is not to be confused with the FCC Lifeline Program. If you qualify for the EBB, the funds you’d receive would be in addition to any Lifeline funds you already receive.

Do I Qualify?

Your household qualifies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Qualify for Lifeline, SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), or the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
  1. Live within certain tribal programs
  1. Participate in the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  1. Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, due to job loss or furlough, resulting in a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
  1. Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
  1. Received benefits from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), or the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year
  1. Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating internet provider’s own low-income or COVID-19 program
  1. Total household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines as shown in the table below:
Household Size48 Contiguous States + D.C.AlaskaHawaii
1$17,388$21,722$20,007
2$23,517$29,390$27,054
3$29,646$37,058$34,101
4$35,775$44,726$41,148
5$41,904$52,394$48,195
6$48,033$60,062$55,242
7$54,162$67,730$62,289
8$60,291$75,398$69,336
Source: 2021 Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Household Size1
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$17,388
Alaska$21,722
Hawaii$20,007
Household Size2
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$23,517
Alaska$29,390
Hawaii$27,054
Household Size3
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$29,646
Alaska$37,058
Hawaii$34,101
Household Size4
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$35,775
Alaska$44,726
Hawaii$41,148
Household Size5
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$41,904
Alaska$52,394
Hawaii$48,195
Household Size6
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$48,033
Alaska$60,062
Hawaii$55,242
Household Size7
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$54,162
Alaska$67,730
Hawaii$62,289
Household Size8
48 Contiguous States + D.C.$60,291
Alaska$75,398
Hawaii$69,336
Source: 2021 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

How Do I Sign Up?

Applying is super quick and easy! If you already receive financial assistance for your internet service, here’s what you need to do. (Feel free to jump to the section that speaks to you.)

Lifeline customers:

If you are currently enrolled in the FCC Lifeline Program, you do not have to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit separately. Simply reach out to your current internet provider directly to enroll in the program. What’s more, you can apply your Lifeline and EBB discounts to either the same or separate services. Call your Lifeline provider to see what plans are available as part of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Low-income households:

If you don’t participate in the Lifeline Program but instead receive a low-income household discount from your ISP, you may not need to apply for the EBBP. Some providers have approval from the FCC to automatically enroll you in the program in this case. Call your provider for more information.

COVID-19 Relief Program participants:

Similar to low-income families, households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may already be eligible for the EBB. If you receive COVID-19 discounts on your internet service, your provider has FCC approval to automatically enroll you in the EBBP. Call your provider for more information.

General Applicants

person in yellow sweater using a laptop

There are three ways to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if you’re not already a part of one of the groups above.

Apply Online

  1. Visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org and fill out an online application.
  2. Submit the application after you review it (mistakes can lead to a longer wait time).
  3. Wait for a USAC representative to respond to your application.

Apply By Mail

  1. Print an application in English or Spanish (instructions also in 9 other languages).
  2. Complete the application and review before sealing it in an envelope.
  3. Mail application to: Emergency Broadband Support Center | P.O. Box 7081 | London, KY 40742

Call Your Internet Service Provider

Call your broadband provider directly and ask if they participate in the EBB Program, or use HighSpeedOptions to find a participating company near you. Participating providers can help you apply through the FCC National Verifier or via their own application process.

After You Apply

After you submit an application, the USAC will reach out via email to share the results with you. Applicants typically receive a response immediately if they apply online whereas mailed applications can take between 2-4 weeks. We recommend applying online or calling your current provider for faster approval.

If the USAC isn’t able to process your application, they may request additional documentation.

What Internet Providers Offer the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

While the FCC provides a complete list of providers offering the EBB, you’ll find that participants offer different services depending on where you’re located. For example, some support fixed internet, mobile internet, or both, and may or may not offer the $100 discount for a new laptop, desktop, or tablet.

Visit the list of top internet providers in this program to see if you’re able to sign up for the EBBP!

How Long Will the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Last?

Before you apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, it’s important to understand that the program is temporary. As it stands, the EBBP will end once either the allocated funds are depleted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares the COVID-19 pandemic is over, whichever happens first.

If you start a new internet plan with a participating provider, you’ll need to opt-in to continue receiving that service after the program ends. At that time, households will be billed the provider’s regular monthly rate for internet service.

For more information, check out the top providers participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

Paula Novo
Written By
Paula Novo
Written By
Paula Novo
Paula began her career in the telecom space, writing on all things tech for 3+ years. With a degree in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin, Paula’s passion for connecting with consumers is unparalleled. Beyond that, Paula is considered a Jane-of-all-trades who loves DIY projects, attempts to cook Thai food, and photographs brands in her spare time.