ACP States are building on the EBB programme by using new funds to provide low-income households with discounted broadband services and connected devices. The ACP States shall include changes in the level of benefits, in the rules on eligibility of the scheme and of participants and in the public support obligations of providers. Among other changes, it is important to note that COVID-related revenue losses are no longer a valid criterion. All relevant recent changes can be found in the AIPI blog post titled “The FCC`s Affordable Connectivity Program.” The new ACP rules include significant consumer protection provided by both Congress and the Commission. Some of the most positive changes for consumers include: ACP countries will help households afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more by reducing the cost of broadband services and some connected devices. The final rules include a discussion of the budgetary benefits for the services and equipment covered, the budget and reimbursement of the programme, the eligibility conditions and other administrative aspects of the ACP States. The FCC opened registration for the CPA on December 31, 2021. For more information, please visit www.fcc.gov/ACP. The transition from ERP to ACP countries may pose difficulties, but the Commission has managed this transition with care and skill in its final rules. For example, if EBB subscribers were automatically transferred to ACP countries, some could end up with a co-payment that they cannot afford because the ACP subsidy is $20 less than the EBB subsidy.

However, if the FCC has caused consumers to explicitly choose to participate in the CPA, they could face an unreasonable burden. The Commission has balanced these competing challenges through a hybrid approach: consumers who will not notice a change in their level of performance or who have demonstrated the willingness and ability to pay for broadband services (e.g. by paying a fee for an EBB-supported service or paying for the internet before registering for the EBB programme) will automatically be admitted to ACP countries, while consumers who receive a new share will have to opt for it. This hybrid approach protects the most vulnerable consumers while minimizing the burden on others. Now that the rules are final, we need to encourage eligible consumers to register. If you know someone who could benefit from the CPA, print this blog post and bring it to them! (Yes, we recognize the irony of posting online about a program designed to help people who aren`t connected.) Last month, the Federal Communications Commission released its final rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program, a five-year, $14.2 billion follow-up program for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. The CPA, created by Congress under the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act (Infrastructure Act), offers eligible consumers a discount on their broadband bills. This program will help millions of Americans connect to the Internet, even if they couldn`t afford it otherwise. Below you will learn more about the program and its implementation. On January 21, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a report and order, as well as another opinion on the proposed regulations that adopted the final rule for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP States replace the emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) programme. The final rules include comments on the benefits for the services and equipment covered, the eligibility conditions for households, the budget and reimbursement of the programme, as well as other ACP regulatory aspects.

Despite the Many Consumer Protection Measures of the Ordinance, there are still policy gaps that will prevent the Commission from bridging the digital divide. For example: Consumers are eligible if they participate in a number of government and tribal programs (including Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, free or reduced school meals, Pell grants, or federal public housing assistance), are below 200% of the federal poverty line, or are eligible for a participating provider`s low-income program. Consumers can register by visiting ACPBenefit.org or by contacting their provider (if they have already subscribed to a provider`s Lifeline program or low-income Internet service). Consumers should note that not all suppliers will participate in the CPA – you can visit fcc.gov/affordable-connectivity-program-providers to find out if this is the case for you. Proponents can also work with decision-makers to address the few gaps in the program. For example, you can encourage Congress to pass the Device Access for Every American Act so that no household has to do without a computer or tablet, and states that take money for infrastructure can use it to create device voucher programs. In the meantime, any state or federal agency that has data on eligible programs should share it with the USAC to verify eligibility.