In some ways the federal government has more money than it knows what to do with.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), of the nearly $3.2 billion in available funds for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, only $378 million has been allocated, so far. That leaves more than $2.7 billion still available to help low-income households get broadband service at a reduced cost, according to an FCC tracker page.
The EBB program allows eligible households to receive a discount to their broadband bill of up to $50 per month or $75 per month if the household is on a Tribal land. The EBB program also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer, tablet or other device for qualifying households.
Speaking at an Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) event this week, acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said that to date, the program has 5.5 million households signed up. And according to the EBB Tracker page, the program currently has more than 197,000 households participating in the program.
But the FCC wants to get the word out to many, many more people, and it seems to be challenged to do so. That’s one reason Rosenworcel was speaking at the IIA event along with leaders from community service organizations such as the National Urban League.
One way the FCC is trying to get the word out about the EBB program is by working with partners. Those partners include, not only more than 1,000 fixed and mobile broadband providers, but community groups such as boys and girls clubs, YMCAs, food banks and libraries to name a few.
Rosenworcel said if she had one criticism of the EBB legislation it’s that there was no funding to help a lot of nonprofit and local organizations around the country to spread the word about the program.
The FCC has held more than 300 events with groups around the country, including more than 30 Spanish-language presentations. It’s also worked with the Department of Labor to get the materials out through state unemployment centers. And it's worked with the Department of Education to notify every Pell grant recipient in the country. It’s even gotten the NFL to run public service announcements.
Rosenworcel also noted that the FCC has made the EBB program “mobile friendly,” which makes a lot of sense considering that it’s trying to reach people who potentially don’t even have a computer.
The FCC is also making an effort to be super transparent about the EBB program. For instance, its tracking on a state by state basis shows that currently California tops the list with 684,701 households tapping the funds; followed by Texas (376,450); Florida (368,577); and New York (341,328).