Comcast Seeks FCC Clarity on Lift Zones Waiver

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Comcast wants the FCC to clarify that it can continue its Lift Zone pilot project beyond the 2022 expiration of a waiver it obtained from an E-rate rule.

The FCC agreed earlier this month to let Comcast test expanding its Lift Zone diverse broadband access program from community centers so libraries that receive E-rate funding. It did so by extending its pandemic-related waiver of the prohibition on gifts from providers to E-rate school and library recipients until June 30, 2022. Comcast had sought the waiver back in May.

Comcast said it is confident it can stand up the pilot projects by that date, but says the FCC needs to clarify that those projects can continue beyond that date.

"Nothing in the Gift Rule Extension Order suggests that the Commission contemplated requiring the discontinuance, on June 30, 2022, of Wi-Fi and other benefits at Lift Zone locations or other providers’ connected community centers in E-rate-eligible locations that were established before June 30, 2022, but the statement that the Bureau 'decline[s] to provide any further waiver in response to Comcast’s request' creates ambiguity."

Comcast said to avoid the Life Zone service disruption that ambiguity could create, it wants the FCC to clarify that the pilot projects can continue after that date.

Comcast made that request in an Oct. 26 letter then followed it up with meetings with FCC staffers to hammer home the point.

Comcast's Wi-Fi Lift Zones are part of the company's effort to provide broadband connections to low income households. It currently has 15 locations in Baltimore. 13 in Washington and one in Virginia.

The 'zones," which are created in partnership with local nonprofits, provide free Wi-Fi connections in partner community centers so kids who may not have Wi-Fi connectivity at home.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.