Civil society to FCC: make emergency broadband benefit easily accessible

Today, Access Now and Free Press filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging strong and rapid implementation of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program established by the U.S. Congress in the latest pandemic relief package.

The EBB program offers a monthly benefit of up to $50 to low-income families and those financially impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. The benefit would help cover the cost of any broadband plan offered by participating internet providers. For a low-cost plan, this benefit could offset the entire price charged to a customer, or offer a significant discount on a higher-tier internet service offering.

Congress directed the FCC to implement the EBB program quickly, and within sixty days of the law’s late December passage. Access Now and Free Press echo that call in today’s comments, while also urging the FCC to ensure its implementation promotes broad eligibility, ease of use, and public transparency.

“The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a landmark program that truly prioritizes the needs of at-risk communities,” said Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now. “I commend Congress for its hard work and implore the FCC to take this benefit seriously. Fixing the digital divide is a bipartisan issue, and helping communities who’ve taken a hit during the pandemic is the right thing to do.”

“The establishment of the Emergency Broadband Benefit represented a tremendous victory for broadband affordability, particularly for low-income families and communities of color who have suffered greatly during the pandemic and are more likely to be disconnected from reliable home internet,” said Dana Floberg, Policy Manager at Free Press. “Now it is up to the FCC to turn Congress’s promise into reality by quickly and effectively implementing the EBB program. In particular, the FCC must act with the interests of marginalized communities in mind by affirming a broad understanding of household eligibility, as well as a broad definition of the costs the benefit can cover. Prioritizing ease of access for eligible households, as well as widespread public awareness and transparency, will help ensure the EBB program offers meaningful and badly-needed support to families struggling to cross the digital divide.”