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FCC Ups Broadband Subsidy Usage Benchmark to 250 GB

The FCC has announced new price and usage benchmarks for fixed voice and broadband Universal Service Fund subsidy recipients based on the results of the FCC's latest survey of prices and service and it is upping the minimum usage allowance benchmark from 150 GB per month to 250 GB. 

To be eligible for the funds, carriers must provide service to the usually rural areas being subsidized at rates and usage offerings reasonably comparable to service offered in urban areas.  

Those subject to the benchmarks include incumbent local exchange rate-of-return carriers, incumbent price-cap carriers getting Connect America Fund Phase II support, Rural Broadband Experiment providers, and winners of the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction. 

For voice service, the new monthly rate benchmark is $54.76 and carriers have until July 1, 2020, to certify that their pricing is no higher than that. For broadband, the rate depends on the upload and download bandwidth and usage allowance. Carriers in Alaska must meet state-specific benchmarks, which is the "AK" column in the chart below, with a July 1 compliance trigger as well. 

The FCC points out that for any service tier not on the chart, it is the carrier's obligation to determine the benchmark using a tool the FCC is providing to supply the requisite variables. 

The usage allowance bump is based on Measuring Broadband America (MBA) data that showed that from October 2018 to September 2019, the average monthly data use was 251.45 GB per month, rounded down for "adminstrative convenience." 

Carriers can use MBA data or some other source, but must use the higher (highest) figure.

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.