FCC's Jessica Rosenworcel Circulates Emergency Broadband Benefit Order

jessica rosenworcel
(Image credit: JohnStaleyPhoto.com)

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has circulated her plan for handing out Congress' $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit and says it opens the program "to all types of broadband providers."

Cable broadband providers had pushed the FCC to include both eligible telecommunications providers under its Lifeline subsidy program--which Congress said the FCC should use as a guide--and non-ETCs, which would include cable broadband providers not currently Lifeline participants.

Also Read: ISPs Prepare for Flood of Broadband Bucks

Per the COVID-19 relief legislation that established the benefit, eligible households get up to a $50 per month discount on "eligible" broadband ($75 per month on tribal lands), and a one time $100 reimbursement for "laptops, tablets and computers purchased through a qualified provider."

It was unclear what broadband the order makes "eligible." ISPs argued that bundles of service, rather than just a bare-bones offering, should be eligible for the discount.

Also Read: ISPs Agree on EBB

The order was not made public, but in announcing its circulation for other commissioners for a vote, Rosenworcel 's office said the order:

  1. "Opens the program to all types of broadband providers;
  2. "Requires providers to deliver the qualifying broadband service to eligible households to receive reimbursement from the Program; and
  3. "Encourages eligible households to affirmatively indicate their interest in the program.

A household will be eligible if it:

  1. "Qualifies for the FCC’s Lifeline program;
  2. "Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program;
  3. "Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020;
  4. "Received a Federal Pell Grant; or
  5. "Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program."

"Today I’m proud to advance a proposal to my colleagues to implement this program so we can help as many eligible households as possible," said Rosenworcel. "No one should have to choose between paying their internet bill or paying to put food on the table. With the help of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, we have a new way for households to access virtual learning, for patients to connect to telehealth providers, and for those struggling in this pandemic to learn new online skills and seek their next job.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.