Extension promotes awareness of federal Emergency Broadband Benefit

CORVALLIS, Ore. – With a presence in every Oregon county, the Oregon State University Extension Service is helping spread the word about a federal initiative that provides discounted internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program provides a markdown of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households, and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount on the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.

As of Oct. 1, nearly 51,000 Oregon households have signed up for the program, according to the EBB enrollments and claims tracker. That number includes 156 enrollments in the zip codes that encompass the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reservation in central Oregon.

From July to August, the largest increases in enrollments were in the Portland Metro Area and Willamette Valley.

“We are seeing increased enrollments across the state which is great news for Oregonians,” said Lucas Turpin, director of information and technologies for the OSU Division of Extension and Engagement and the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Affordable broadband access is critical for helping people connect to jobs, healthcare services, education and more.”

The FCC asked Extension and other partners to help build consumer awareness about the program prior to its launch in May. Extension responded in four key areas:

  • The OSU Extension website features a webpage in English and Spanish that includes basic information about the program, including who is eligible, how to sign up and what service providers are participating.
  • Extension communicators created a toolkit with English- and Spanish-language resources that includes flyers, presentation slides, newsletter blurbs, social media posts and a news release template. The toolkit is intended to assist Extension employees promote awareness through their programs, community partners and networks and to provide information to walk-in clients at local Extension offices.
  • Extension educators shared information about EBB at county fairs this summer and are continuing to mention the program in newsletters and on social media, and during educational programs.
  • Extension educators in two nutrition education programs that serve limited-income audiences – SNAP-Ed and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) – have played a key role in Extension’s outreach.

“We have cultural workgroups that develop culturally-informed resources and extend reach to communities that disproportionately experience health and resource disparities,” said Joyce Senior, Oregon EFNEP coordinator. “Our Latinx workgroup has focused on increasing awareness about this benefit among Spanish-speaking communities and helped make the Spanish webpage easier to navigate.”

The EBB program will continue for approximately six months after COVID-19 pandemic is deemed to be over or until funding runs out. The benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

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