Coronavirus and Connectivity
In the coming days, we will see major progress on a $10+ billion federal investment in digital inclusion. This moment is unprecedented. We've never seen such a large commitment to making broadband service affordable for all. And, as Congress starts to focus on long-term solutions for universal broadband, we're seeing the potential for more digital inclusion investment in the coming months.
Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated and released to the public a draft Report and Order that, if adopted, would establish the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, pursuant to section 7402 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will start May 12, 2021. Eligible households will be able to enroll in the Program to receive a monthly discount off the cost of broadband service from an approved provider.
A number of readers have reached out to us at Benton asking for help figuring out where to find all the pools of broadband support appropriated by Congress over the past year. So we've decided to create this placeholder for all the funding we've seen in the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and the American Rescue Plan.
What constitutes a lifeline in 2021? Is it a phone? A smartphone? A fixed-location broadband connection? Or some combination of all these services?
On March 11, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, the latest effort to address the continued impact of COVID-19 on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses.
On March 4, we got a tad bit more information about the timeline of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program—at least for the companies that are interested in providing the discounted broadband services. Broadband internet access service providers that have previously participated in federal assistance programs (these companies are known in wonkspeak as eligible telecommunications carriers or ETCs), can begin to let USAC know if they will participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Progr
In its efforts to help people deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in late 2020. The Federal Communications Commission will run the program, starting it in Spring 2021. The program offers discounts off of people's monthly internet access bills to help connect households that find it hard to afford broadband service. Households can also get discounts on a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer. Broadband providers will receive up to $50/month for providing service to low-income households ($75/month if the household is on Tribal Land).
With great drama, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law on December 27, 2021. The $2.3 trillion COVID relief and government spending bill extended unemployment benefits and ensured the government can keep running. The $900 billion COVID relief provision includes over $7 billion to help improve connectivity in the U.S.