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Low-Income Broadband Program Sees Significant Provider Fraud

Some broadband providers are exploiting the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, says the Federal Communications Commission. Such providers may be targeted for legal action as investigation continues.

a torn $100 bill reveling the word "fraud"
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has detected provider fraud in its Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which offers $50 a month to low-income households needing high-speed Internet.

The FCC's Office of Inspector General (OIG) shared the news Monday. Households whose children qualify for free or reduced lunch may enroll in EBB, but OIG indicated that certain schools are "grossly overrepresented in EBB household enrollments."

For example, one Florida school only has 200 students, but the same school accounts for 1,884 EBB enrollments. OIG also shared examples of fraud in Arizona, California, Colorado and Alaska schools.

OIG's evidence shows that these and other instances of fraud aren't merely the plots of consumers.

"Sales agents who work for just a handful of EBB providers are responsible for the majority of this fraudulent enrollment activity," the OIG advisory said.

OIG also noted a number of other fraudulent trends, including about 1,700 households located 100 miles away from their designated school and nearly 50 households that have used a provider's retail address as a home address.

"Once again, EBB enrollment data shows that providers and providers’ sales agents are driving these clearly improper enrollments," reads the OIG advisory. "Each improper enrollment represents a recurring, monthly program loss — such losses quickly mount."

This news comes at an interesting juncture for the program, as the federal infrastructure bill expands EBB.