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.
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.
The order was not made public, but in announcing its circulation for other commissioners for a vote, Rosenworcel 's office said the order:
- "Opens the program to all types of broadband providers;
- "Requires providers to deliver the qualifying broadband service to eligible households to receive reimbursement from the Program; and
- "Encourages eligible households to affirmatively indicate their interest in the program.
A household will be eligible if it:
- "Qualifies for the FCC’s Lifeline program;
- "Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program;
- "Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020;
- "Received a Federal Pell Grant; or
- "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.”
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