On November 26, 2021, the Wireline Competition Bureau (“WCB”) released an Order waiving the Commission’s rules governing the enrollment freeze and notice requirements for the end of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBB Program”), which will end on December 31, 2021. The program is being supplanted with the Affordable Connectivity Program, which will continue to provide eligible households with a $30 ($75 for eligible households on tribal lands) a month discount on broadband service and connected devices. The FCC anticipates that funding for the EBB Program will not be expended as of December 31, 2021, therefore, it is sua sponte declaring December 31, 2021 as the start date of the Affordable Connectivity Program and beginning the transition to the new program.
On December 31, 2021, the FCC will begin a 60 day transition period, during which time EBB Program participants will continue to receive their program benefits. During the 60-day transition period, service providers will be required to reverify the eligibility of EBB Program households under the criteria established for the Affordable Connectivity Program. This reverification process will only be required for the limited number of homes that enrolled in the EBB Program based upon a substantial loss of income after February 29, 2020 or participated in a service provider’s approved COVID-19 relief program. More information on the 60-day transition process, including USAC’s updates to forms and the application process, will be provided in future notices.
In anticipation of this transition, the WCB is waiving the rule requiring USAC to freeze enrollments in the EBB Program upon announcement that the program is ending. Since the EBB Program will not run out of funding prior to the effective date of the Affordable Connectivity Program, the WCB finds that a freeze on enrollment is not required. It is also waiving the end of program notice requirements, instead relying on providers to inform relevant consumers that the EBB Program will be replaced with the Affordable Connectivity Program.
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