FCC Chair Announces Anticipated Wind Down of Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
We wish to bring to your attention the recent developments concerning the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) initiated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Overview: FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced the impending steps to wind down the ACP due to the projected exhaustion of funding by April. The ACP has been instrumental in providing high-speed internet access to nearly 23 million U.S. households, fostering digital inclusion. The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) has since announced procedures for the wind down of the ACP.
Funding Challenges: Despite efforts to secure additional funding—President Biden’s request for an additional $6 billion—the ACP budget of $14.2 million is expected to run out in approximately three months.
Anticipated Wind Down Steps: Rosenworcel outlined three key steps the FCC expects to take, and the WCB’s Order provides further details:
- Guidance to Providers: Providing guidance to the 1,700 broadband providers involved in the program regarding timing and requirements for notifying households about the program’s projected end. The WCB released an Order on January 11th setting out the wind down processes, and will release a further announcement 60 days prior to the end of the last fully-funded month of the ACP (estimated to be April 2024). Among the guidance provided are requirements for notices (see below); a reminder providers of the requirement to obtain “affirmative consent” of ACP customers to retaining broadband services at post-ACP rates and providing a presumptive showing for certain types of customers; and setting a deadline of the 1st day of the second month after the “snapshot” date for provider reimbursement requests, beginning on February 1st.
- Cut-off for New Enrollees: The WCB announced that the cut-off date for accepting new enrollees into the program will be February 7, 2024 at 11:59 pm EST. The cut off for new service provider applications to be processed, and election notices filed with USAC, will be February 7, 2024 at 6 pm.
- End Date Announcement: Determining and announcing the projected end date for the program, along with relevant details. The WCB will release a further notice, likely in late February, unless Congress provides additional program funding.
Consumer Communication: To mitigate confusion and potential bill shock, providers are mandated to give specific and frequent notice to customers regarding the projected end of the program and the impact on their internet bills. Providers must give at least three notices to their ACP customers, the first of which must be given no later than January 25, 2024. The timing of the other two notices will be established upon the WCB’s release of the announcement that the program is 60 days from the end of the last fully-funded month. Please let us know if you’d like our assistance in preparing any of the required notices.
Potential Impact: The FCC emphasized that without additional funding, the substantial progress made towards closing the digital divide through the ACP may be at risk. The commission stands ready to assist Congress in securing full funding to sustain the ACP’s positive impact.
Congressional Outreach: The FCC has communicated these developments through a letter to key federal legislators and has issued a fact sheet about the anticipated wind down of the ACP.
As your legal advisors, we recommend monitoring further updates on this matter and considering contingency plans. If you have any questions or require additional information, please feel free to reach out to the attorney responsible for your account or you may otherwise contact Christine (“Chris”) McLaughlin, one of our firm’s ACP subject matter experts. Chris can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 703-714-1328.