Stakeholders were generally applauding the FCC's unanimous vote on a framework for handing out the $3.2 billion in broadband service and device subsidies for low-income residents.
AT&T praised the decision to grant automatic eligibility to those participating in industry low-income broadband subsidy/support efforts, like its Access by AT&T and Comcast's Internet Essentials, which Comcast pointed to in its shout-out for the decision.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit was part of Congress' December COVID-19 aid package bundled with a must-pass appropriations bill.
“We commend Congress for providing a targeted broadband benefit and the FCC for adopting rules today to implement this program," said Comcast EVP, federal affairs, Mitch Rose. "The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a welcome step in getting assistance directly to those in need during this pandemic and we plan to participate in the effort. For a decade, our Internet Essentials program has connected low-income Americans to the Internet, and this new federal program will further that goal.”
“We commend Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and the FCC for establishing the Emergency Broadband Benefit," said CTIA SVP regulatory affairs Scott Bergmann. "Timely implementation of this program is essential to keeping low-income households connected during this challenging time. The wireless industry looks forward to working with the FCC to ensure eligible consumers across the country can apply this important benefit to mobile wireless services.”
“Keeping our communities connected and working to close the digital divide is a top priority," said AT&T EVP, federal regulatory, Joan Marsh. "We support the FCC’s efforts to quickly develop a program that will enable more Americans to afford broadband connectivity during this unprecedented time. Encouraging participation in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program will be key to its success, and we commend the Commission for creating rules that will enable low-income households, such as our Access by AT&T customers, to automatically qualify for the benefit. The steps taken in this Order will help close the broadband gap, and we look forward to working with Congress and others to identify permanent and sustainable funding solutions for Universal Service programs.”
“We are pleased that the Commissioners were able to find common ground on rules that will promote swift access to robust broadband services for households that are struggling financially during COVID-19," said ACA Connects President Matt Polka. "We are particularly encouraged by public statements suggesting that the Order takes steps to promote participation in this program from small and rural wireline providers that are often the only source of robust connectivity in their communities.
“I commend the Commission for unanimously approving the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which will give discounts to qualifying households on their internet service bills and the opportunity to receive discounts on devices – which are so essential in today’s world," said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry. "All Americans, particularly those in rural areas, need and deserve access to critical mobile broadband services and devices, and the Commission’s act is certainly a good step toward closing the digital divide.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way," said Jonathan Spalter, president of USTelecom. "It is great to see the FCC move with lightning fast speed to stand up Congress’ $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program with unanimous bipartisan agreement. This was a program that could not wait, so while we still need a permanent solution to close the digital divide, this is an important development and will bring critical connectivity assistance to students and others affected by the pandemic.”
“Too many Americans are not able to access or afford broadband," said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports. "This is especially true for people who’ve lost their jobs or can’t find regular work since the coronavirus shuttered many businesses. Standing up the Emergency Broadband Benefit program is the first step of many that need to be taken to make internet service more affordable for Americans. If it wasn’t glaringly important before, the pandemic has confirmed the vital need of a broadband internet connection — one that is reliable, affordable, and for some of us, simply available."
“Last year, local officials were desperate for the FCC to provide connectivity solutions that lived up to the moment. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is one step towards fulfilling that promise," said Francella Ochillo, executive director of Next Century Cities. "It will help low-income households overcome one of the most persistent barriers to adoption — affordability,"
“The Emergency Broadband Benefit is the type of response that communities nationwide need and deserve. Standing up this program is one of many critical steps that the FCC must employ in its campaign towards universal broadband connectivity."
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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.