How to bring low-income Americans online? Lessons from the Emergency Broadband Benefit

Source: University of Southern California

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is issuing a new policy brief assessing the impact of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program put into place during COVID-19.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program began in May 2021 to help close the digital divide and boost broadband adoption among the most vulnerable households during the pandemic. As the program transitions into a longer-term broadband subsidy as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), USC researchers examined the impact of the EBB subsidy on its target beneficiaries.

Key findings include a relatively modest impact in bringing unconnected households online, limited impact in rural and less populated areas, a partisan connectivity divide, and lower participation among households with undocumented members. According to USC researchers, the primary impact of the EBB program was to alleviate the cost burden for households that were already connected pre-pandemic, with only modest impact in bringing new households online. To enhance the impact of the new ACP subsidy, outreach efforts must be strengthened and targeted through participating providers, safety net service agencies and organizations with strong local community ties.

The policy brief is part of the Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Inclusion Approaches (MEDIA) project, a research program that analyzes broadband inclusion models and offers evidence-based recommendations on how best to connect low-income households on a sustainable basis. The program is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and includes the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) as a research partner.

WHAT: Policy brief examining the impact of EBB, participation levels, disparities between regions and populations.
WHEN: Feb. 3
WHERE: Read the policy brief here.

Experts who collaborated on the policy brief are available to discuss the assessment and recommendations for Congress to expand broadband access for disadvantaged Americans:

  • Hernan Galperin, associate professor of communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication
  • Francois Bar, professor of communication and spatial sciences, USC Annenberg School for Communication
  • Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO, California Emerging Technology Fund


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