The FCC is seeking public comment on how to best administer a new $3.2 billion emergency broadband benefit program to assist consumers with broadband internet costs during the current COVID-19 emergency. The program is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and aims to provide consumers with up to $50 a month, through carrier subsidies, to use on internet services and associated equipment. The benefit would increase to $75 per month for consumers on Federally-recognized Tribal lands.
Participating providers that also supply an eligible household with a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet (connected device) for use during the emergency period may receive a single reimbursement of up to $100 for the connected device, if the charge to the eligible household for that device is more than $10 but less than $50. An eligible household may receive only one supported device.
In structuring the program, the Commission seeks input on a range of issues including:
· Which providers can participate in the program and what do such providers need to do to elect to participate?
· How should the Commission set up an expedited process for approving broadband providers for areas where they are not eligible telecommunications carriers?
· How should the Commission and providers track participating households and verify that they are eligible?
· What services and connected devices are eligible for reimbursement from the program?
· How should the Commission structure the reimbursement process?
· What rules are needed to ensure appropriate service on Tribal lands?
· How should the Commission and participating providers promote awareness of the program?
· What requirements are needed for robust auditing and enforcement of federal rules?
· What reporting requirements are needed both during the program and at its conclusion?
Public comments should be received by January 24, 2021 and reply comments received by February 16, 2021. You can find a helpful overview of the FCC’s public comment filling process at this link.