The Federal Communications Commission has decided not to set minimum service standards for the broadband service to low-income Americans that its new $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes, saying the law won't allow it.
The commission similarly did not set minimum standards for the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) COVID 19-related subsidy that the ACP has supplanted, but had sought comment on whether it could or should mandate them for the ongoing ACP subsidy program.
In draft rules for administering the ACP, which the FCC released for comment last week and will have to promulgate them — vote to approve them — before January 14 under orders from Congress and the infrastructure bill that created the ACP.
In that draft, the FCC said that after reviewing the statute’s language, it concluded that “Congress intended that ‘any internet service offering’ be eligible for support in the ACP,” and that imposing minimum service standards (which could be anything from speed and latency to price quality) “would contradict the Infrastructure Act” and so “is not statutorily supported.”
The FCC did say, as it did with the EBB, that to qualify, the service must include a fixed or mobile broadband connection “that permits households to rely on these connections for the purposes essential to telework, remote learning and telehealth.”
That definitely leaves room for interpretation of just what bandwidth that requires.
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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.