A bipartisan group of House legislators urged internet service providers (ISPs) and trade associations to participate in and help make consumers aware of the newly created $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta, R-Ohio, wrote to nine ISPs and trade associations to highlight the importance of the EBB Program, which they say will help struggling Americans afford high-speed internet.
“As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implements this program, it is critical that eligible customers know about the benefit, which providers are participating in the program, and how they can access the benefit,” the lawmakers wrote. “To further the effectiveness of this program, we urge your company to raise awareness about the availability of the EBB Program, consistent with applicable law and regulations.”
Once the program goes into effect, it will provide qualified households a discount of $50, or $75 on tribal lands, off the monthly cost of home internet service. Additionally, some households will qualify for an additional subsidy for a computer. The FCC will reimburse ISPs who participate in the program.
“For this historic $3.2 billion program to help the greatest number of people, it will require the cooperation and support of internet service providers like your company. Simply put, the more companies participate in the program, the more we can, together, ensure that all Americans have this crucial connectivity,” the committee leaders continued.
The legislators sent letters to Altice, AT&T, CenturyLink/Lumen, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, T-Mobile, Verizon, United States Telecom Association, The Rural Broadband Association, The Internet & Television Association, The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, CTIA, Competitive Carriers Association, America’s Communications Association, and INCOMPAS.
While closing the digital divide has long been a bipartisan goal in Congress, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in broadband demand, along with many families having to make budget cuts to stay afloat.
“In addition to the very serious health crisis, the economic repercussions of the pandemic continue to weigh heavily on families across the country,” the legislators said in a statement. “The pandemic has made access to reliable, high-speed internet more important than ever. Unfortunately, for many people, the cost of home internet service either prevents them from subscribing or forces them to make painful sacrifices in their home budget to pay the cost of service.”