FCC Takes the Wraps Off Affordable Broadband Rule

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Friday for the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program; it’s based on directives in the infrastructure bill signed into law in mid-November.

The program provides broadband service credits of up to $30 per month for eligible households and up to $75 a month for households on tribal lands. It also provides households a one-time payment of $100 to go toward certain connected devices, such as a computer or tablet. The draft rule explains how the additional $14.2 billion provided in the infrastructure bill would be used to transition a temporary COVID-era initiative into a longer-term broadband affordability program, notes Politico.  

The rule would establish household eligibility requirements, adopt consumer protection rules, and establish consent requirements to help households already enrolled in broadband subsidies transition to the new program, among other provisions. To date, the FCC has helped enroll approximately 90,000 households in the new affordability program. More than 9 million households have transitioned from the temporary version of the connectivity program, according to the agency.

“The past two years have made it totally clear that broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, with over nine million households enrolled in less than eight months, proved what many of us knew to be true: there are simply too many people across the country struggling to pay for high-speed internet service,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “Now, with tens of thousands already coming into the just-launched Affordable Connectivity Program, it’s clear that the need for support continues,” she said, inviting public feedback on the draft. Comments are due today by 5 p.m. Eastern to WC Docket No. 21-450.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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