The Emergency Broadband Benefit and How to Make Sure It Reaches Families Who Need It

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What is the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program?

On May 12, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program to help families pay for broadband internet access for their education and work-from-home needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many families don’t even know this program exists. So brightbeam has joined as an official partner with the FCC to spread the word about the new, $3.2 billion program to help students and families get connected. 

What’s in the program?

  • Up to $50 per month discount for broadband service.
  • Up to $75 per month discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands.
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.

Who’s eligible?

The FCC has provided the following information on who is eligible for the program.

  • If a family has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain government assistance programs.
  • If the family receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast program.
  • If a member of the family has received a federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
  • If the family has experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020.
  • If the family meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing programs.
  • A household is eligible if one member of the household is low-income or otherwise qualifies for a COVID-19 program.

How do I apply for it?

The FCC has provided three ways to apply for the program. 

  • Ask your local internet service provider if they participate in the EBB, or use the FCC’s online tool to find a participating company near you.
  • Use the online application at GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
  • Print an application in English or Spanish. Complete the application and send with proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY 40742.

Why don’t many eligible families know about this program?

The government, and particularly the FCC, has always struggled to let people know about the benefits they are entitled to. 

Adam Echelman, cofounder of the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition, broke it down:

The FCC has struggled to enroll individuals in the past for similar programs due to mismanagement, poor communications and regulation. If enrollment for the EBB follows the same previous trends, these public benefit programs may lose their political support at a critical moment. On the other hand, high enrollment for the EBB could further bolster the case to make internet a public utility.

So now we must get this news into the feeds of everyone we know.

What are the opportunities for activism?

It’s simple: Spread the word!

  • The FCC has provided an outreach toolkit, with everything from social media content to infographics. 
  • Share this explainer on social media to tell your friends and family about this opportunity. Even if they don’t qualify themselves, they might know someone who does.
  • THIS FRIDAY join the EBB Day of Action webinar which will help you understand how to help families get signed up.
  • Reach out to your mayor or councilperson and make sure they include information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit in their communications to residents. They can use the FCC’s newsletter blurb.
  • Call your library and make sure they print out the FCC’s Consumer Handout and have it prominently available for all visitors.

YOUR VOICES MADE THIS HAPPEN

Programs like this only happen because of tireless activism on the ground.

At the beginning of the pandemic, brightbeam and our partners were just as blindsided as the rest of the country by how the coronavirus wiped out our existing education system. So we looked for solutions that had already percolated in activist circles and community conversations for years. 

Dirk Tillotson of Oakland’s Great School Voices hosted the Access Denied series on Citizen Ed’s Facebook Live beginning in the summer of 2020. There, Tillotson and guests delved into the nuances of the #InternetForAll fight that has been ongoing for a long time—and why the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to make life-changing broadband available to kids regardless of their families’ ability to pay for internet service.  

You and nearly 40,000 others across the country signed onto a petition demanding that low-income families receive this kind of support for learning amid the pandemic. 

Now that we’re seeing some needed relief for families and students, we need to make sure that every eligible family is able to take advantage, and get one step closer to a brighter future.

This content originally appeared with Education Post.

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