What Is the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
Your guide to the new internet discount program
As of May 12, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now offers an exciting new Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) to help students, low-income families, and others affected by the COVID-19 pandemic pay for internet costs.
The EBB offers the following discounts for eligible households:
- Up to $50/mo. for broadband internet service
- Up to $75/mo. for broadband internet service on qualifying tribal lands
- A one-time discount of up to $100 toward a laptop, desktop, or tablet
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly broadband service discount and one device purchase discount per household. It will end six months after the pandemic is officially declared as over or when the allocated funds are depleted—whichever comes first.
When can I sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
Eligible households can sign up for the EBB starting May 12, 2021.
How can I sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
There are a few ways you can sign up for the EBB:
- Visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org and use the online application
- Call or chat online with your broadband internet provider
- Use the official EBBP tool to find a participating provider near you
- Print and mail an application to the following address:
Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742
What do I need to sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
When signing up for the EBB, it will automatically attempt to confirm your personal information. If the program cannot obtain the proper information, you will need to supply documentation. That may include the prior year’s tax returns, paycheck stubs, child support, your Social Security number, and so on. Additionally, if you’re enrolled in Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), and other programs, you may need to show official documentation.
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) provides additional information on what you may need to show that you qualify for this plan.
You may not need to apply for the EBB. Current Lifeline participants do not need to apply again for the EBB—they can opt in with their current carrier or select another provider with a qualified plan. Current participants of a provider’s low-income or COVID-19 program may not need to apply again either—talk to your provider for more information.
Who qualifies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
To qualify for the EBB, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Qualify for Lifeline, SNAP, Medicaid, FPHA, SSI, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain tribal programs
- Have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- Participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), or the USDA Community Eligibility Provision during the 2019–2020 school year
- Receive a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
- Have suffered a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, resulting in a total 2020 income below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
- Be eligible for a participating internet provider’s own existing low-income or COVID-19 program
Which providers are participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
The FCC provides a long list of providers participating in the EBB. Participants vary by state and region and may support only fixed internet, mobile internet, or both. Participants may or may not offer discounts on a new laptop, desktop, or tablet. Check the FCC’s chart to see which carriers are participating in your state or region. Here’s a short list of some major providers:
You can periodically check for updates on the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit page.
|Internet provider||EBB participant?||Offers discounted devices?||Find a plan|
|Boost Mobile||Yes||No||View Plans|
|Cricket Wireless||Yes||No||View Plans|
|Metro by T-Mobile||Yes||Yes||View Plans|
|Ready Wireless||Yes||No||View Plans|
|T-Mobile USA||Yes||Yes||View Plans|
|TracFone Wireless||Yes||Yes||View Plans|
|US Cellular||Yes||No||View Plans|
Emergency Broadband Benefit news and statistics
Here are several other statistics based on information published on June 14, 2021:
- Over 900 broadband providers are participating in EBB.
- 239,336 households enrolled in the EBB in the week of June 7–13.
- California had the most enrollments, with 250,234 households.
- Wyoming had the least enrollments, with 783 households.
- American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands had 81,474 enrolled households combined.
- The total program funding was $3,136,000,000.
Information regarding the amount already claimed to support these households is currently unknown.
Walmart teams up with AT&T
Walmart announced that it partnered with AT&T to provide select home internet and wireless plans for customers who are eligible for EBB.3 These plans are available through the AT&T PREPAID and Cricket Wireless brands. Customers can find a plan on Walmart.com or visit one of over 2,300 Walmart stores.
AARP urges older adults to enroll
The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is pushing a nationwide campaign to encourage older adults to take advantage of the EBB. Top reasons include staying connected with family, online healthcare, and teleworking. AARP senior legislative rep Dawit Kahsai said the EBB will provide a “road map for more long-lasting policies.”4
EarthLink is waiting on FCC approval
EarthLink’s official EBB page states that it is waiting for the FCC to make its final approval before the carrier can offer discounted services through EBB. When EarthLink lands an approval, customers will be notified through email, text messages, and social media and directed to the EBB page. There EarthLink will help customers obtain their National Verification ID and credit towards a qualified plan.
More FAQ about the Emergency Broadband Benefit
How does the EBB work?
The EBB is managed by the USAC. It leverages existing infrastructure from the Lifeline program to check eligibility and communicate with internet service providers.
Once you sign up, you choose a participating provider in your area and pay your discounted rate to that provider each month.
Do I have to switch plans to get the benefit?
You might have to switch plans to get the EBB if your current plan doesn’t qualify. Based on the information provided by the FCC, you will need to select a qualified plan to receive the discount. The FCC’s own FAQ states that “the ultimate cost to you will depend on the eligible plan you select from a participating provider.”
This answer indicates that internet providers may or may not apply the discount to your current internet plan. While AT&T clearly lists qualified plans, other providers aren’t quite so transparent. Existing Spectrum customers, for example, must complete an online application form to see if their plan even qualifies. For Verizon Fios, customers must have an existing Mix & Match TV and internet plan or switch to one.
You should take a cautious approach when considering a provider’s EBB plan. It may eventually cost more than your previous plan once the EBB program ends.
Keep in mind that if you’re currently subscribing to a plan your provider no longer offers, the EBB may not apply to that specific legacy plan, requiring you to switch. That may be another reason why the eventual post-EBB cost could be higher than what you’re currently paying.
Will I receive the EBB funds to help pay for my service?
No, the EBB will pay participating broadband internet providers directly. Additionally, if your service costs less than that discount allowance, you will not receive the remaining monthly funds. For instance, if your service is $40 but you receive a $50 discount, you do not pocket the extra $10.
If your monthly bill exceeds the EBB discount, you are responsible for paying the remainder.
Does the EBB discount apply to a bundle?
Yes, the EBB discount applies to a bundle as long as it includes broadband internet. The discount is applied specifically to your internet service, and you are responsible for paying the remaining monthly balance.
Can I get a discount if I pay my landlord for internet?
Yes, you can get a discount if you pay your landlord for internet as long as your household qualifies. The FCC states that you should request that your landlord work with the broadband service provider, as other tenants may also qualify.
How long will EBB benefits last?
The EBB will be available for up to six months after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declares the COVID-19 pandemic over.
If the $3.2 billion funding runs out before the six months after the pandemic concludes, the program will end earlier. Everyone using the program will be notified by their participating provider ahead of time.
Do I automatically get an additional discount if I receive Lifeline benefits?
No. You already qualify for the EBB so you don’t need to apply, but you must contact your current provider and opt in. If you already receive Lifeline benefits, you can also choose a different provider offering an eligible service plan.
What qualifies as a household?
A household is a group of people who live together and share money.
For example, a family is a household. A single mom with two kids is a household. Three roommates renting an apartment are three households if they don’t share money. An adult who lives with friends that support him is part of that household.
1. Federal Communication Commission, “Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Enrolls Over One Million Households,” May 20, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021.
2. Universal Service Administrative Company, “Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Enrollments and Claims,” June 14, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021.
3. Walmart, “Walmart, AT&T Team Up Through Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to Help More People Access the Internet,” May 26, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021.
4. AARP, “How to Get Government-Backed Discounts for High-Speed Internet,” June 16, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.