Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program
Launches Nationwide May 12
Note: This message is related to the EBB program – not the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program that that will provide funding so schools and libraries can provide off-campus Internet and connected devices for unconnected students, staff and library patrons. The FCC is expected to release the final ECF rules early next week.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which will provide free Internet to low-income families during the COVID emergency, will begin accepting enrollments on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at: https://www.getemergencybroadband.org/.
Schools and libraries will not be applicants or direct beneficiaries in this program, but you may wish to notify your low-income families/patrons of this program and encourage them to enroll. The program is open to all low-income families (not just those with school-age children) as well as any family that has a student attending a CEP school.
To assist with getting the word out about this program, the FCC has developed an EBB Toolkit (https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-outreach-toolkit) that contains a collection of social media, printables, and other content to assist communities, outreach partners, and grassroots organizers in raising awareness about the EBB. These tools are free to use and can be co-branded and/or adjusted to your voice. I have one request: please do not forward this message to your families.
EBB subsidies will be up to $50/month for Internet access, and up to $100 toward the purchase of a connected device (computer or tablet) from an EBB provider. Only one Internet subsidy is eligible per household. Only one connected device subsidy is eligible per household, and the household must contribute between $10-$50 towards the purchase price.
Participating Providers in PA:
A total of 48 Pennsylvania providers have signed up to participate! A full list is available at: https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers#Pennsylvania (note: “Fixed” means home Internet service and “Mobile” means wireless internet services). Soon there will also be a Companies Near Me tool that will assist consumers with finding which companies are offering service in their zip code area.
- Applicants will first determine if they qualify for EBB benefits: https://www.getemergencybroadband.org/do-i-qualify/. If the consumer is already receiving federal Lifeline benefits or participating in a vendor’s existing low-income or COVID-relief Internet program, they may not need to apply again for EBB. The consumer should reach out to their existing Lifeline or low-income Internet provider for direction.
- There are 3 ways to apply for EBB benefits beginning May 12, 2021:
- After they submit an application, the EBB Administrator will share the results of their application. If they apply online, they may receive immediate approval. If the EBB Administrator cannot prove their eligibility automatically, they will request additional documentation and instructions on how to submit those documents for review.
- After the EBB Administrator approves their application, they can choose a company that offers EBB Program discounts and sign up for service.
- The company submits reimbursement claims to the EBB Administrator for their enrolled customers.
Longevity of EBB:
This is a Temporary Program. Before families apply, it is important to understand that the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will end when the fund runs out of money or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner. Participating households will need to opt-in to continue receiving broadband services from their provider after the program ends. If a household chooses to continue receiving service after the end of the EBB, they will be billed the broadband provider’s general monthly rate.
Free Community Wi-Fi Hot-Spots
The FCC has asked the nation’s telecommunications companies to take the https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected, which includes a commitment that vendors make their community Wi-Fi Hotspots open and free to all. These are the ones I could find; please let me know if there are others, particularly small PA providers:
• Comcast/Xfinity - https://hotspots.wifi.xfinity.com/
• PenTeleData/Service Electric - http://www.ptdunleashed.com/
• Zito Media - https://www.zitomedia.net/wifi/
• Frontier - http://www.frontierwifi.com/coverageareafrontier.aspx
• Charter Spectrum - https://www.spectrum.com/wifi-hotspots
• Lackawanna County Free Wi-Fi - https://www.lackawannacounty.org/index.php/wireless
• Atlantic Broadband - https://atlanticbb.com/my-services/my-account/wifi-hotspots
National Free Wi-Fi Map
https://www.wifimap.io/. Many of these locations are restaurants that are now closed, but their parking lots may continue to have active service.
Library Parking Lot Wi-Fi
The American Library Association has asked every library in the country to keep their Wi-Fi open during the shutdown so patrons can access it from their parking lots. I know of at least one PA library that is allowing/encouraging the community to use their free Wi-Fi in the library parking lot, in the safety of their cars (see wonderful picture at http://e-ratepa.org/?page_id=32310). As long as the Internet doesn’t extend beyond the school or library’s property boundary, I don’t think there are any E-rate rules that would prohibit it. In fact, it’s a fantastic idea. If you know of any schools or libraries that are making their Wi-Fi available to the public from their parking lots, please let me know (and share a picture if you can).
Low-Cost Home Internet
Several companies have low-cost, home-based Internet for low-income households.
• Comcast/Xfinity – Comcast will offer new residential, low-income customers its $9.95-per-month Internet Essentials program free for 60 days. The company is also boosting the internet service speeds in this program from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps, which qualifies the service as high-speed broadband under FCC guidelines. Comcast will also suspend data caps for 60 days. https://internetessentials.com/
• Zito Media - Zito Media will provide its 20 Mbps Internet Service free of charge for two months to low income residents.
• AT&T – AT&T’s Access program provides $10/month home-based Internet to limited income households. Also offering two months of free service to new Access customers who order by April 30, 2020 ($10/mo thereafter) and waiving all home internet data overage fees. https://digitalyou.att.com/low-cost-internet/
• Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) - Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
• CenturyLink: CenturyLink is suspending data usage limits for consumer customers during this time period due to COVID-19.
Federal Lifeline Program
Lifeline is one of the four federal Universal Service programs (E-rate is also one) that lowers the monthly cost of phone or internet for low-income households. Eligible customers can receive up to $9.25 toward their bill. https://www.lifelinesupport.org/.