Goodbye Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and hello Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially replaced the former with the latter, launching a new subsidy program which is set to dish out more than $14 billion in support for broadband users.
Congress mandated the creation of the ACP as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which became law in November 2021. The program was designed as a permanent extension of the EBB, with a handful of changes.
The EBB was launched in May 2021 and offered eligible households up to $50 per month off their broadband bill or $75 per month if the household was on Tribal land. More than 1,000 fixed and mobile broadband providers signed on to offer service through the program.
Under the ACP, the maximum household benefit will be reduced to $30 per month for most homes, though the benefit for those on Tribal lands will remain the same. A one-time discount of up to $100 will also be provided to eligible households for the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.
The program will add new ways to qualify for the broadband benefit, making it available to those who receive WIC benefits or have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Current Pell Grant recipients and students who receive free and discounted school lunch will also be eligible.
Those who enrolled in the EBB before the ACP was launched on December 31, 2021 will be provided with a 60-day transition period, during which they will continue to receive the higher $50 subsidy amount. The FCC said it will provide guidance to consumers and participating providers in the coming weeks to ensure an orderly rollover to the ACP. It already indicated households which qualified for the EBB due to job loss or by meeting a service provider’s Covid-19 program criteria will be required to requalify for the ACP.
“The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit proved what many knew to be true: the cost of high-speed internet is out of reach for too many of us,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Now with the long-term Affordable Connectivity Program, we have the opportunity to enroll even more households and help ensure they can afford the internet connections they need for work, school, health care and more for years.”
The ACP will initially be governed by EBB rules until the FCC finalizes its rules for the new program. The Commission said it expects to adopt rules for the ACP this month, following its solicitation of input from stakeholders in November.