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Getting Connected: The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program


If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that access to high-speed internet is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. AARP fought for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) because too many Americans do not have access to the affordable, high-speed internet they need. In addition, AARP is working with state lawmakers to expand broadband access to unserved areas in the state.

Without access to high-speed internet, communities suffer, losing out on opportunities for people to learn, find jobs, stay healthy—and for local businesses to prosper. North Carolina residents without access to high-speed internet are losing out and being left behind when it comes to:

  • Accessing virtual classrooms for kids and adults
  • Connecting with family and friends
  • Teleworking and finding new jobs
  • Virtual visits with doctors and nurses
  • Finding new customers for their small business
    Finger pressing on digital tablet screen

High-speed internet helps older Americans avoid isolation from family and friends and helps them remain independent as they age. Virtual visits keep residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities connected when in-person visits are limited.

According to the FCC website, "The Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, virtual classrooms, and so much more."

The program has been very popular in North Carolina which ranks 6th in the nation when it comes to the number of residents receiving this benefit.

About the Emergency Broadband Benefit (info from the FCC)

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. 

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household. 

Who is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program? 

A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below: 

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year; 
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; 
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or 
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program. 

How to Apply 
Eligible households must both apply for the program and contact a participating provider to select a service plan. 

There are three ways for eligible households to apply: 

  1. Contact a participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process. If you are unable to apply through them directly, you will have to apply using option 2 or 3 below, and then contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan. 

  2. Go to to apply online and to find participating providers near you. After you apply, you will have to contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan. 
  1. Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application or print a copy, and return it along with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to: 

Emergency Broadband Support Center 
P.O. Box 7081 
London, KY 40742 

After you received a notice that you have qualified for the program, households must contact a participating provider to select an Emergency Broadband Benefit eligible service plan. 

Get More Consumer Information 

Check out the Broadband Benefit Consumer FAQ for more information about the benefit

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Various broadband providers, including those offering landline and wireless broadband, are participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit.   Find broadband providers that are participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit. 

Also: Learn what is North Carolina doing to improve broadband access to all corners of the state in this AARP Advocacy Forum.

About AARP North Carolina
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