FCC Establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

JSI to Hold Webinar on March 16

The FCC late last week adopted a Report and Order to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program. The EBB program will provide eligible households with discounts off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices for the duration of the emergency COVID-19 pandemic (see our Feb. 24th e-Lert). The Report and Order sets forth major aspects of the program, some of which are summarized below, and directs the Wireline Bureau to announce filing deadlines and other details in Public Notices – one of which is due within the next few days – that will provide the initial filing deadlines. The FCC will announce the EBB program’s start date, along with other key dates, this month or next.

JSI will hold a webinar on Tuesday, March 16th at 2 p.m. EDT to provide broadband providers with the information they’ll need to assess whether to participate in the program. We will review the pros and cons associated with being an EBB provider and go through the steps required to participate in the program and receive reimbursement. Registration for this webinar is $249 per company. You can sign up here.

The EBB program was established as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Congress tasked the FCC to create the $3.2 billion program to provide qualifying low-income households with discounts on their broadband services and equipment. Participating broadband providers will receive reimbursement from the EBB for monthly discounts off the standard rates for an Internet service offering and associated equipment, up to $50.00 per month (up to $75.0 per month on Tribal lands). Providers that supply customers with a connected device will be eligible for a single reimbursement of up to $100.00 for the connected device, if the charge to the eligible household for that device is more than $10.00 but less than $50.00 (a participating provider may receive reimbursement for only one supported device per eligible household).

As for eligibility, the good news is that all eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) can elect to participate in the program for itself or any of its affiliates. This means that ILECs, CLECs and wireless carriers that receive “frozen” support, Rural Broadband Experiment and CAF Phase II auction winners, and any Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction winners that have received ETC designation can participate or designate one or more of their respective affiliates as a participant. Further, ETCs are not required to participate in the program; it will be a voluntary election. Broadband providers that have no affiliated ETCs can also participate in the program under either an automatic or expedited approval process depending upon whether the provider meets certain criteria.

The program will utilize some of the existing mechanisms used by the FCC in its Lifeline program, such as the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier) and National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD) and the Representative Accountability Database (RAD). But the FCC declined to impose Lifeline’s minimum service standards. Accordingly, participants in the EBB program will be able to offer discounts and receive reimbursements for any broadband services they offer, regardless of the speed.

One major issue with the program is that, at this point, it is only temporary and will end within the earlier of six months or until the program’s funds are exhausted. To ensure that households are informed that the benefit will terminate, the Order adopts procedures to notify all stakeholders of the forecasted end of the program, to disburse the remaining funds equally to providers, and to allow for a transition to ending the disbursement to households.

For more information about the EBB program or how JSI can assist your company in making the election, please contact one of our experts by clicking the button below.

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