A draft of permanent rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program is circulating within the FCC and has been made public. The news came just days after the commission launched the program with interim rules, and the draft of the permanent rules shows no major changes from those interim rules.
The $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and will pay $30 a month toward the cost of internet service for low-income households ($75 on tribal lands). In addition, the fund will pay up to $100 toward the cost of a computer, provided that the household pays at least $10 but not more than $50 toward that cost.
The commission also is considering an enhanced internet service benefit of up to $75 monthly for households in high-cost areas. The order circulating in the commission that proposes the permanent rules includes a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on the benefit for high-cost areas.
In addition, the NPRM seeks comment on the establishment of a grant program for partner organizations to assist with outreach efforts to make target populations aware of the Affordable Connectivity Program and to encourage them to enroll.
Affordable Connectivity Program Rules
The proposed permanent rules would clarify that broadband providers that were approved to participate in the EBB will automatically be able to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program. The order also proposes a process for approving new providers to participate in the new program.
According to the proposed rules, households would be eligible to receive Affordable Connectivity Program benefits if they have income that does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. Eligibility can be determined by participation in any of several low-income programs, including school lunch and breakfast programs and others.
And although participation in USDA Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program did not make a household eligible in the EBB, such participation would make households eligible for the new program. The interim rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program already include WIC participation on the list of criteria that can be used to determine eligibility for the program.
Other elements of the proposed Affordable Connectivity Program order:
- Technology neutral program rules for participating broadband providers
- Consumer protection rules as well as disclosure and consumer consent requirements
- Establishment of a dedicated FCC complaint process for program participants
- A roadmap and consent requirements to assist legacy EBB program participants transitioning to the new program
- An outreach program to encourage eligible households to enroll in the new program