On Friday, January 14, 2022, the FCC voted to adopt a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that provides detailed guidance for a long-term internet discount program: the Affordable Connectivity Program. The new rules take effect upon publication in the Federal Register, or after the appropriate publication period has passed – either 30 or 60 days depending on the specific rule at issue.

The Affordable Connectivity Program will distribute $14.2 billion to qualifying households through a discount on internet service bills and a discount on a computer or tablet from participating providers. In particular, the program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $30 a month for broadband service and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands. It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

Under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Affordable Connectivity Program is open to households that meet one of the following criteria:

(1)   Have incomes at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines;

(2)   Participate in certain assistance programs, such as Lifeline, Medicaid, SNAP, federal public housing assistance, WIC, or SSI, Tribal specific programs such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;

(3)   Households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast;

(4)   Pell grant recipients; or

(5)   If they meet eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program.

The Report and Order includes provisions for consumer protection including the establishment of a dedicated FCC complaint process for Program participants. The Report and Order also establishes a roadmap to assist transitioning households in the legacy EBB program to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC seeks comments on the structure of and objectives for an outreach partner grant program, as well as on a mechanism with which an eligible household in a high cost area would receive an increased benefit up to $75 per month. Comments and reply comments are due 30 days and 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, respectively.

Customers can sign up by contacting a participating provider, enroll online at https://ACPbenefit.org/, or sign up via mail.  If you have any questions about this program’s requirements, please contact your friendly attorneys at Fletcher Heald & Hildreth.