The Federal Commissions Commission’s (“FCC”) plans for the Affordable Connectivity Program (“ACP”) incorporate learnings from the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”). The draft rules, published on January 8, 2022:
- establish baseline household eligibility requirements, expanding the income eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines;
- adopt technology-neutral program rules for participating broadband providers;
- define the rules governing ACP broadband plans and connected devices;
- outline the reimbursement and claims processes;
- adopt consumer protection rules as well as disclosure and consumer consent requirements; Establish a dedicated FCC complaint process for Program participants;
- establish consent requirements and a roadmap to assist legacy EBB households transitioning to the ACP; and
- initiate the FCC’s public outreach strategy.
On December 22, 2021, Next Century Cities joined public interest allies in a letter asking the agency to proactively address bill shock for households transitioning from the EBB to ACP. Local leaders have repeatedly expressed concerns about ensuring that eligible households learn about broadband subsidy programs from trusted community members. The letter emphasizes the importance of communicating with consumers in ways that they can understand including appropriate languages and with appropriate disability accommodations.
Additionally, advocates urge FCC officials to consider ways to address program attrition and employ communication strategies that minimize consumer confusion. As stated in the letter, “all EBB participants [must] receive clear and repeated notice that the program is transitioning, and they may opt-out or choose an alternative provider at any time.” Community-based partners are not only best-positioned to deliver that message, they also have the social infrastructure to reach households that the ACP was designed to support. Recognizing the need for local partnerships, the Commission is collecting public input on the structure of and objectives for an outreach partner grant program.