On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the rules for a new Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), funded for a one-time amount of $3.2 billion, which will be available until expended or until six months after the COVID-19 emergency declaration expires. The EBB provides eligible low-income households with a monthly $50 discount for broadband service from participating providers, as well as a one-time $100 discount on an internet-enabled device. This includes any household with a resident who currently receives the federal Lifeline telephone benefit, is approved for the free or reduced-price school program, experienced a substantial job or income loss since Feb. 29, 2020, or received a Pell grant in the current academic year.
Cities in Georgia will have a key role to play in the implementation of this emergency program. While cities without broadband utilities will not be directly eligible for funding, local leaders can and should work with local internet service providers, community organizations and local and regional government agencies to make sure that all potential participants are aware and able to take advantage of the program.
Cities should work with their local ISPs, particularly those that may not already be participating in the federal Lifeline telephone subsidy, to make sure they are encouraged to opt-in and are able to access training and information about how to enroll in necessary federal systems.
Georgia local leaders must also serve as trusted providers of information for residents who may benefit from the program, and the organizations that serve them. While the FCC has been charged with developing educational materials and resources in a variety of formats and languages to inform the public about the broadband benefit and how to access it, local leaders know their communities and residents best.
Cities should plan to communicate closely with housing agencies, schools, food banks, faith-based organizations, clinics and other organizations providing services to low-income residents to ensure that they have timely, useful information about how to enroll in the EBB, how to assist residents and their broadband providers with providing any necessary documentation to verify eligibility and how to identify and avoid scams. The National League of Cities and numerous local governments and locally focused organizations participated in the accelerated comment period in January and early February and the FCC has recognized that local governments are a critical partner for the EBB’s success. For the latest updates from the FCC, including an informational listserv, past and upcoming educational events and documentation, visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.
Contact Angelina at 202-626-3196 or email@example.com with questions or for more information.
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.