How the Emergency Broadband Benefit has Been Used So Far

The emergency broadband benefit is a program established by the Federal Communications Commission to assist families and households having difficulty paying for internet service during the pandemic. The benefit provides a discount each month for qualifying recipients on broadband internet service. The benefit is paid to the service provider, however, and not directly to enrollees. Now that the EBB program has been up and running for a brief period of time, the FCC has released initial information on who has been taking advantage of this benefit so far, data that’s based on subscriber demographics. Here’s a closer look at the results based on who’s been signing up for the benefit up to this point, according to the FCC.

Cities with Most EBB Subscribers

As of early September of 2021, more than 5 million households are enrolled in the EBB. Sign-ups for the benefit were fairly steady during the summer months of 2021. Each week, an average of just over 200,000 new households are enrolling for the EBB. More than a thousand internet service providers including Spectrum, Verizon, and HughesNet are currently participating in the benefit program. The top three cities with the most subscribers for the EBB so far are Los Angeles, Cleveland, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Other cities showing high enrollment numbers include:

• Philadelphia
• Brooklyn and The Bronx in New York
• Chicago
• Phoenix

Many Recipients Prefer to Apply the Benefit to Mobile Internet Service

Nearly 280 million people in the U.S., as of 2021, access the internet via some type of mobile device. This amounts to about 80 percent of the population, which may explain why most recipients of the benefit opt to apply the $50 subsidy to mobile internet service rather than home internet.

Interestingly, the EBB has been marketed for people in need of assistance keeping up with home internet payments. Even so, there is no requirement for recipients to use the benefit for home broadband connections. The trend with usage, as mentioned above, has actually been going in the opposite direction. Two-thirds of enrolled households are applying the benefit to mobile internet service. The term “mobile internet” can be a bit ambiguous, however. While many people think of mobile as being phone-based service, this category can also include service for laptops, tablets, and even hotspots.

Most Enrollments Are via the Lifeline Program

It’s likely most of the mobile enrollees are using the benefit for cellphone-based internet since the bulk of the sign-ups are through Lifeline. This is an assistance program typically used for enrollees with cellphone plans. Nearly 3 million of the EBB recipients so far have signed up through the Lifeline federal assistance program. For non-Lifeline users, most of the enrollments for EBB are through the following sources:

• National Verifier Application
• Alternative Verification Process
• Verification by school

Younger Adults Are Signing Up More

In this case, “younger” is defined as people falling between the ages of 25 and 49 since this is the age group with the most participants in the benefit program to date. In fact, people within this age range account for more than half of all EBB subscribers with a total of nearly 3 million enrollees. The next highest age range falls within the 50 to 64 age group, which amounts to about a million-and-a-half enrollees. On the other side of things, the lowest sign-up levels are within the Gen Z group, ranging in age from 18 to 24, and among adults 85 and older.

Because the Lifeline program has the same criteria as the Emergency Broadband Benefit, households qualifying for the one program automatically qualify for the other. This likely explains why there’s such a high sign-up rate through Lifeline. It’s also possible to contact another broadband provider that participates in the EBB program to apply for the monthly service discounts.

 

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