No big surprise since it had a January 14 congressional deadline, but the FCC voted Friday to adopt rules for handing out the $14.2 billion in Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) broadband subsidies.
It gives low income households money toward monthly broadband service and a one time device subsidy.
“There are still too many households making the difficult choice between paying for gas and groceries or paying for a broadband bill so that their kids can keep up with schoolwork, so that a family member can attend a needed telehealth appointment, or so that they can work remotely," said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. "Now with these rules in place, the FCC has new tools to support these families and reach those most at risk of digital disconnection for years to come.”
Among the rules, highlights include requiring ISPs to allow the subsidy to apply to a wide array of broadband plans--rather than simply the lowest tier of service; implementing prohibitions on credit checks or existing debt as a bar to enrollment; prohibiting upselling or downselling; disallowing restrictions on switching providers; and helping prevent bill shock--the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) that the ACP supplants was a $50-per-month boost while the ACP is only $30 (except on tribal lands).
To help prevent that shock, the FCC is allowing EBB subsidy recipients to be automatically enrolled in ACP. ■
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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.