American Recovery Act funds Emergency Broadband for households in need

How older adults and seniors can make the most of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

The FCC is launching the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program to help all Americans get online. EBB is part of the American Recovery Act and is designed to help people on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Broadband is no longer just ‘nice to have.’ It’s a ‘need to have,’ for everyone, everywhere.”

How does EBB work?

EBB provides a discount of up to $50 a month for high-speed internet service households that qualify and up to $75 a month for households on Native American tribal lands.

The program ends six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares the end of federal emergency surrounding the coronavirus pandemic or once the fund is depleted—whichever comes first. Internet service providers are required to notify participants about the last date the discount or partial discount is available, when the federal money is depleted. Internet service providers are also required to help customers transition to another program.

EBB also allows eligible households to receive a onetime discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or desktop computer from participating internet service providers if the consumer contributes $10 to $50 toward the device purchase price.

Broadband Graphic

Who qualifies for EBB?

Eligible households receiving:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
  • Having an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (see table to the right)
  • Substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, due to layoff or furlough
  • Applying for or receiving unemployment benefits
  • One household member received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
  • One household member receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019 – 2020 school year
  • One household member meets the eligibility requirements for an internet service provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program

The EBB program will also offer a one-time discount of up to $100 for the purchase of a computer or tablet for those who are eligible, as long as consumers contribute between $10 to $50 toward the purchase price of the device.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 14 million Americans — and 22 percent of those 65 and older — don’t have access to a high-speed internet connection. Other estimates suggest that as many as 22 million older adults are on the wrong side of the “digital divide.”

Do you qualify?

Persons Income limit
1 $17,388
2 $23,517
3 $29,646
4 $35,775
5 $41,904
6 $48,033
7 $54,162
8 $60,291

Source: Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

How to get started

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program begins on May 12, 2021. EBB is a temporary program so if your household income is low, you should apply for the existing federal Lifeline program. The Lifeline program provides low-cost phone service AND a low-cost broadband plan which is not free but will last beyond the stimulus. You can enroll in Lifeline  or you can download a printable form which becomes available after selecting your state.

If your household is already enrolled in Lifeline and wants to enroll in EBB do ONE of the following:

  1. Register through a participating Internet Service Providers website.
  2. Use the application at the Universal Service Administration Co. (USAC) website which will have forms in English and in Spanish on May 12.
  3. Mail a printed application from the USAC site and proof of eligibility to:

    Emergency Broadband Support Center
    P.O. Box 7081
    London, KY 40742

To find Internet Service Providers in your area go to:

Still have questions?

Call the Universal Service Administrative Co. EBB program information toll free number 833-511-0311. The toll free number is open from 9 am to 9 pm Eastern Time. You can also email USAC operates the Lifeline fund created from a tax on phone service. Instructions for how to apply for EBB are also available in 8 additional languages on USAC’s website.

Do you work for a community organization that could helps other people enroll in EBB? This blog explains how you can help people get signed up.

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