On May 12, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) began enrolling eligible households for its Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”) program. The EBB program offers eligible households a monthly discount of up to $ 50 off their Internet plans (and up to $ 75 per month for households in tribal areas).1 The EBB also includes funding for a one-time discount of up to $ 100 for a tablet, computer, or other specified device for qualified households
Funded by the stimulus package signed in late December 2020, the EBB will provide consumers with a total of $ 3.2 billion in discounts on broadband services and devices. As incumbent FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel noted, the program “creates a new way for Americans who do not have internet access to get on with their daily lives, so they can reach the virtual classroom, take advantage of telemedicine, and find new employment can”. Opportunities.”3
The immediate goal of the program is simple: to make sure Americans have access to the Internet in order to live their lives successfully. The COVID-19 pandemic has made online learning, teleworking and telemedicine the rule rather than the exception in everyday life – and the changes the pandemic has brought with it will continue. Some have even stated that “the program reflects a clear lesson from COVID-19: Internet connectivity has become as important to American life as electricity and water”.4th
The EBB program is also a long-term opportunity to give further priority to expanding broadband access in the US, particularly in rural communities with no broadband infrastructure. The FCC’s allotted money for the program is intended to reimburse service providers who offer these $ 50 and $ 75 discounts to eligible households.5 This reimbursement program could serve as a further incentive for broadband providers to expand their coverage areas, lower-cost service offerings and general access. In fact, over 825 broadband providers are already participating in the program.6th The EBB program is also interlinked with other broadband subsidy programs such as the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”), which will invest more than $ 20 billion in rural broadband network construction over a 10-year period.7th
The program is also in line with the Biden administration’s inclusion of broadband deployment as a critical aspect of its infrastructure legislation with the hope of “providing affordable, reliable high-speed broadband to every American, including the more than 35 percent of rural Americans who something is missing”. Access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds. “8th This focus shows the ubiquitous and still growing awareness of the essential nature of broadband Internet access.
The EBB program is the largest federal program to assist communications consumers with device payments for more than 30 years.9 This program could be a boon for device manufacturers and retailers, as well as Internet service providers, as more people can afford their services and products. It remains to be seen how many, exactly, but thousands of additional computers, tablets, and other tech devices will be sold as a result of this program. The program can also advance the development and manufacture of new low-cost devices and complement low-cost Internet service options.
1 FCC messages, Emergency Broadband Benefit starts today, May 12, 2021, https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-372389A1.pdf.
3 Sue Marek, The FCC will begin emergency broadband registration on May 12th, Fierce Wireless, May 3, 2021, https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/fcc-will-begin-emergency-broadband-enrollment-may-12.
4 Geoffrey A. Fowler, The government wants to pay your internet bill for a few months. Here is what you need to do., New York Times, May 12, 2021 https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/12/emergency-broadband-benefit-faq/.
5 Nadia Dreid, Senators Want Examination Of The FCC Emergency Broadband Program, Law 360, May 3, 2021, https://www.law360.com/telecom/articles/1380973/senators-want-audit-of-fcc-emergency-broadband-program?nl_pk=f9babbcd-b35a-4766-9838-5ec1130645b3&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email .&utm_cetter.
6 FCC.gov, provider of emergency broadband services, https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers(last visited on May 12, 2021).
7 Tyler Cooper, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) – Map, Auction and Analysis, Broadband Now, March 17, 2021, https://broadbandnow.com/report/rural-digital-opportunity-fund/#:~:text=The%20Rural%20Digital%20Opportunity%20Fund%20is%20a%20Federal,dollars % 20 in% 20 of% 20 construction% 20 of% 20 rural% 20 broadband% 20 networks.
8 Marguerite Reardon, Biden to Promise Broadband for Everyone in $ 2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan, CNet, March 31, 2021, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/biden-promises-broadband-for-all-in-dollar2-trillion-infrastructure-plan/ar-BB1f9XPq.
9 Geoffrey A. Fowler, The government wants to pay your internet bill for a few months. Here is what you need to do., New York Times, May 12, 2021 https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/12/emergency-broadband-benefit-faq/.
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