Do ISPs limit how you can use the EBB program?

Ari Howard

Aug 9, 2021 — 2 min read

ISPs are receiving backlash for limiting which internet plans customers can apply their $50/mo. discount to.

Man using the internet at home

In May 2021, the U.S. government launched a $3.2 billion program to help connect low-income Americans to high-speed internet. Through what is known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB), eligible Americans are able to receive $50/mo. off their internet bill with select internet providers. The program will last until the fund runs out. 

Participation among internet providers is entirely voluntary and ISPs have a fair amount of control over how the $50/mo. discount can be applied to their services. This has caused some issues for customers because ISPs have only permitted the EBB discount to be applied to their current services.

ISPs with long-time customers sometimes are providing them with internet services that are no longer offered to new customers. These outdated plans are usually cheaper plans that the provider has moved away from. 

Since many ISPs are trying to phase out these older plans, they have been reluctant to allow customers to apply their $50/mo. discount to those plans. 

Verizon, for instance, has received the most backlash from customers because the company told many customers in the beginning that the EBB could not be applied to old internet plans. This meant that customers had to upgrade their internet service to newer (and often more expensive) Verizon internet packages in order to receive $50/mo. off their internet service. 

The issue there was that the EBB only lasts a short period of time and then customers will be stuck paying for a more expensive plan once the program ends. 

Due to the immense amount of backlash Verizon received, Verizon has since changed its rules and allows existing customers to apply their discount to whatever plan they are currently using. 

Verizon wrote in a statement on May 19, 2021, 

We heard from some customers that they prefer to stay on the legacy plans they have. Moving forward, we will offer customers on legacy Fios plans (no longer in market today) the ability to enroll in EBB. We are not asking customers to upgrade their plan in order to take advantage of the EBB benefits.

Adria Tomaszewski

Although Verizon has reversed its rules on how the EBB can be applied, other ISPs have still not followed suit. AT&T, for instance, only applies the EBB to select plans. These speeds include <75 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps. 

Therefore, any AT&T customer not on one of these plans who are interested in the EBB will have to switch plans. Spectrum has stated that all customers looking to use the EBB will have to select a current internet plan as well. 

As of now, Xfinity is one of the few major ISPs that offers the EBB with any of its plans. 

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Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari Howard is a staff writer Healthline and spent two years as a writer on the Allconnect team. She specialized in broadband news and studies, particularly relating to internet access, digital safety, broadband-… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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