FCC Issues Enforcement Advisory on EBB Broadband Provider Participation

On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, the Enforcement Bureau (“EB”) issued an FCC Enforcement Advisory (“Advisory”) Public Notice (DA 21-551) reminding broadband providers participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”) Program that they must obtain informed subscriber consent to enroll subscribers in the EBB Program, and they must require a co-pay for the provision of connected devices.

Subscriber Consent: The Advisory reminds broadband providers that all eligible subscribers, including existing Lifeline subscribers, must affirmatively provide their consent to be enrolled in the EBB Program.  Providers must transmit clear, accurate, and not misleading communications regarding the nature of the EBB Program, the Program’s eligibility requirements, and the timing of the Program and application process.  Inaccurate or misleading marketing of the program or processing of applications may be subject to investigation and enforcement action.  Participating providers must demonstrate that they provided certain disclosures to – and received affirmative consent from – subscribers, and must retain this documentation.

Connected Device Co-Pay: The Advisory reminds participating providers they must charge households a co-pay towards the cost of a subsidized connected device.  Specifically, the provider must bill the customer more than $10.00, but less than $50.00, towards the cost of the connected device.  The Advisory warns against advertising “free” connected devices or enlisting a scheme by which subscribers earn credits toward the subscriber portion of the cost of the connected device.  Broadband providers must certify, among other things, that they charged the customer the appropriate co-pay, and must retain documentation demonstrating compliance.

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