FCC Launches Latest Billion-Dollar Broadband Subsidy

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The Federal Communications Commission on Monday (January 3) officially launched the Infrastructure Act's $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) broadband subsidy, which will replace the pandemic-related Emergency Broadband Benefit subsidy.

The ACP is part of the Biden administration's universal broadband pledge, a recognition that internet connectivity is basically table stakes for opportunities in work, education and entertainment.

Eligible households can get up to $30 per month (up to $75 on tribal lands) toward their broadband bills and a $100 discount on a laptop, desktop or tablet (but not a smartphone).

To be eligible, a household has to meet at least one of a number of criteria, including making 200% or less of the federal poverty level. For example, the poverty level for a family of four is $26,500, so any family of four making $53,000 or less would qualify for the benefit.

Other criteria include Pell Grant recipients and those eligible for free and reduced lunch programs.

The FCC has yet to adopt final rules, which won't come for a couple of weeks. But the agency said during the interim period between January 3 and the release of the ACP rules, the Emergency Broadband Benefit rules will apply, with some modification.

“The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit proved what many knew to be true: the cost of high-speed internet is out of reach for too many of us,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “Now with the long-term Affordable Connectivity Program, we have the opportunity to enroll even more households and help ensure they can afford the internet connections they need for work, school, health care and more for years.” ■

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.