The FCC has formally adopted a Report and Order and Further Notice to provide rules for the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program.
The program provides eligible households with discounts of up to $30 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month for households on Tribal lands, as well as a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet. It replaces the previous Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program.
Under the permanent rules proposed earlier this month, the Affordable Connectivity Program is open to households that meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Have incomes at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines;
- 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;
- households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast;
- Pell grant recipients; or if they meet eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program.
The Affordable Connectivity Program also includes a requirement for participating providers to allow the consumer to apply the benefit to a much greater array of broadband plans in comparison with the EBB program.
It also provides protections against the use of credit checks or existing debt to prohibit enrollment in the program and prohibits certain inappropriate sales agent practices such as upselling or downselling.
“The Federal Communications Commission made history when it launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, setting up what was at the time the nation’s largest-ever broadband affordability program,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a prepared statement about the Affordable Connectivity Program rules. “Now, Congress has asked us to stand up its successor, the Affordable Connectivity Program. I’m proud of our efforts to do so because the reality is that for too many families across the country paying for their internet bill can mean making sacrifices in other parts of their budget. The Affordable Connectivity Program is here to help.”