FCC Launches Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is designed to help economically disadvantaged households get reliable broadband at a subsidized rate.

May 12, 2021—Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the official roll out of the Emergency Broadband Benefit to close the digital divide and address the homework gap facing students.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit kicked off Wednesday and is the nation’s largest broadband subsidy program to ever be enacted. The benefit is slated to last until the $3.2 billion allocated for the benefit runs out. 6.5 million Pell Grant recipients alone would qualify for the program, in addition to every household with students who qualify free school breakfast and lunch program.

The fund would provide $50 a month to qualified households and $75 a month for households on tribal land, in addition to a one-time reimbursement of $100 towards securing a laptop or tablet that can access broadband.

More than 824 broadband providers have committed to participating in the benefit. “We’re going to have a lot of competition,” Rosenworcel said. “That will allow households to choose the services that work for them.”

Additionally, Rosenworcel added that as many as 17 million students do not have broadband access at home. “These are the students who sit in fast food restaurants and do their homework with a side of fries,” she said. “These students are disproportionately black, Latino, and American Indian or Alaskan native, but you’re going to find them in every community in this country—rural and urban alike.”

She stated that connecting these students will be a crucial step in addressing the homework gap, and more broadly, the digital divide.

“This program, any successor program, the Emergency Connectivity Fund—they are all designed to help us reach that goal,” Rosenworcel concluded. “It is my hope that we do not stop until we reach 100 percent of our nation.”

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