On December 8, 2021, the Wireline Competition Bureau released an Order waiving certain FCC rules regarding internet service offering, standard rate, provider participation, and election notice requirements (collectively the “Internet Service Offering Restrictions”) for the end of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBB Program”) and providing additional guidance on the transition to the Affordable Connectivity Program (“ACP”).
Waiver of Internet Service Offering Restrictions
The Order waives two main requirements with regard to the Internet Service Offering Restrictions of the EBB Program, in accordance with the text of the Infrastructure Act. First, it waives the requirement that internet service offerings and the accompanying standard rates be offered in the same manner and on the same terms as offerings that were available on December 1, 2020. Instead, participating providers must now offer the ACP discount on any internet service offering.
Second, the Order waives the requirement in the Commission’s rules that participating providers submit to USAC a “statement that, in each state or territory, the provider was a ‘broadband provider’ as of December 1, 2020.” Instead, beginning with acceptance of new provider USAC election notices on December 27, 2021, and lasting until the FCC Adopts ACP rules, participating providers must submit evidence that they were offering broadband service in each new jurisdiction, but not that it was as of December 1, 2020.
In addition, the Order provides additional guidance on the transition from the EBB Program to the ACP. The Order provide guidance for EBB Program participants and providers separately.
Guidance Regarding Participants
The Order provides the following guidance regarding EBB Program participants: First, beginning at 6:00 PM EST on December 30, 2021, providers will no longer be able to register subscribers with the EBB Program; instead, beginning on December 31, 2021, they will be required to register for the ACP. Second, pending applications for the EBB Program on and after December 31, 2021 can be relied upon for the purposes of an eligibility determination and enrollment in the ACP, provided that the household is applying based on income level or participation in a qualifying program. Third, households that were enrolled in the EBB Program prior to December 31, 2021, will continue to receive the $50 per month benefit during the transition. Fourth, EBB Program participants that qualified based upon substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 or a service provider’s COVID-19 program will be required to reverifiy eligibly. Fifth, USAC is directed to notify all participants of the EBB Program about the upcoming changes.
Guidance Regarding Providers
Providers will automatically transition to the ACP on December 31, 2021. They will not be required to submit additional documentation or otherwise update their information with USAC prior to providing ACP services. There will be a pause on provider participation applications and election notices for the EBB Program beginning on December 20, 2021, and they will begin accepting participation applications for the ACP on December 27, 2021. Providers who did not participate in the EBB Program will be allowed to submit an application to participate in the ACP starting on December 27, 2021.
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