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FCC Waives ETC Restrictions on Broadband Subsidy

The FCC is giving carriers more flexibility to target government broadband subsidies to areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and thus most in need of continued broadband connectivity in a shelter- and quarantine-in-place world.

The FCC said Tuesday (March 31) that it would provide waivers to allow competitive eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) to use their high-cost legacy dollars to respond to the "unprecedented challenges" of the virus. 

Related: FCC Grants Spectrum to WISPs

High-cost money are subsidies for broadband service where it is least economical to deliver. 

FCC rules require all such high-cost legacy support to be used only in a particular service area, but the FCC said it was in the public interest to free it up where it would do the most good, specifically maintaining networks in the most-affected areas. 

“With this waiver, we give these carriers the ability to adjust their deployments as appropriate to the specific needs of the communities they serve," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "I hope and expect this waiver will allow these carriers to focus their efforts in the areas most in need." 

The waiver lasts until June 30, but the FCC will reevaluate at that time as to whether that will need to be extended.