SAN ANTONIO — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is offering an Emergency Broadband Benefit. It is a pandemic-related program to make the internet more affordable and accessible both on your phone and computer. It is $50 off your monthly internet bill. It is for existing and new services.
Before you apply, you need to qualify. You are eligible if any member of your household meets one of these criteria:
- Is enrolled in assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline
- Uses a free and reduced-price lunch program
- Received a Pell Grant
- Experienced job loss and income is below $99,000 for single filers or $198,000 for joint filers
Next, you need to find a provider that offers the discount.
Applying is going to take patience no matter how you do it. The good news is a lot of people qualify for this discount; the bad news is they are all applying for it at the same time.
"The pandemic exposed a critical broadband need and connectivity gap for students who are schooling it at home or patients with health care needs or even those who are looking for jobs and AT&T is committed to solving that digital divide," said Michael Peterson with AT&T. "We welcome the Emergency Broadband Benefit to help address that affordability issue that unfortunately too many American families face."
The website to apply is GetEmergencyBroadband.org. You might find it hard to get through and get the dreaded “an error has occurred on this page” message. The FCC said the website is working, and it just might take a few days to get through.
“We’ve certainly witnessed a high level of demand in the emergency broadband benefit program,” said Patrick Webre, FCC consumer bureau chief. “This demonstrates how critical this program is for families struggling to afford internet service during the pandemic. So we’re actively working to resolve any issues that consumers are encountering and we’re definitely increasing resources to meet that demand.”
You can also call your internet provider to sign up. You can apply directly through your provider if are a current Lifeline customer or are already in a low-income or COVID-19 relief program with a non-Lifeline provider. Otherwise, your provider can get your application started, but you still may need to finish the application on the website.
This sounds crazy in the digital age, but your best and least aggravating bet might be to mail in the application. You will need to print an application and send proof of eligibility to :
Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY, 40742
For help getting an application, or if you have questions, call (833) 511-0311 or email EBBHelp@usac.org.
No matter how you apply, be ready to provide documents like a tax return, layoff notice, or a statement of benefits. Do not send in original documents if you mail in an application.
This benefit does not mean you will get a $50 check each month of the program. Instead, the money goes to the provider and reduces your bill.
This benefit also allows you a $100 credit towards a computer or tablet if you need a device to access the internet.
The benefit ends in six months or until the $3.2 billion worth of funds are exhausted. Customers will be notified when the program ends so they can cancel the service if they cannot pay full price.
“Consumers will have prior notice before they have to start being responsible for their own Internet bills,” said Webre. “They’ll have to opt into that so they won’t have to just start paying automatically. They’ll actually have to tell their provider, yes, I want to continue service, even though I’m not going to be receiving the benefit any longer.”
There is no cutoff date to apply.