The FCC has been ramping up since November 2021 for the transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and has provided guidance in four separate releases on November 26, 2021, December 8, 2021, December 30, 2021, and January 7, 2022. Today we detail several key items from this guidance which includes a required customer notification, information for EBBP participating providers to navigate the transition to the ACP, and guidance on the interim rules governing the ACP. The biggest take-aways for JSI clients are:

  • The ACP became effective on December 31, 2021;
  • On non-tribal lands, the monthly support amount decreases to a maximum of $30 effective March 2, 2022. On tribal lands, the monthly support amount for eligible Tribal households remains unchanged at up to $75. For existing EBBP customers, the higher monthly support amount will remain in place during a 60-day transition that will end on March 1, 2022.
  • EBBP providers must notify customers about the transition from EBBP to ACP although a specific date for notifying the customer has not been established;
  • Eligible broadband service plans are no longer tied to plans offered on December 1, 2020; and
  • EBBP providers should continue to rely on EBBP rules until the new ACP rules’ effective date, which is not yet known.

Sending Required Customer Notifications
Providers participating in the EBBP must inform customers that the EBBP transitioned to the ACP effective December 31, 2021. There is no set date for when the customer notices must be sent, but the notice must include:

  • Announcement of the program transition from EBBP to ACP effective December 31, 2021;
  • The continued availability of their current EBBP support amount during the 60-day transition period;
  • The beginning and end dates of the 60-day transition period;
  • The available ACP support amounts after the 60-day transition period;
  • A statement that subscribers may switch service offerings at any time; and,
  • A statement that the subscriber will receive additional information after March 1, 2022, if they are required to take any steps to retain any benefits.

Navigating the Transition for EBBP Service Providers
Providers participating in the EBBP prior to December 31, 2021 were automatically transitioned to the ACP. However, providers do need to keep in mind that:

  • Eligible broadband service plans are no longer tied to the broadband plans participating providers offered on December 1, 2020;
  • ACP may be offered on any broadband service plan, regardless of whether it was offered prior to December 1, 2021;
  • Participating providers may expand ACP offers to new states or territories by filing the necessary approval applications and USAC election notices;
  • Participating providers must continue to retain documentation consistent with FCC rules;
  • ACP discounts must be available on at least one service offering; and
  • Participation in the ACP will continue to be voluntary.

Understanding the Interim Rules Governing the ACP
Until the FCC implements the ACP rules, participating providers should continue to rely of the EBBP rules except where they differ from the ACP provisions in the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). One major change from the IIJA is the change to the program’s qualifying criteria, which:

  • Eliminates COVID-19 substantial loss of income from the list of qualifying criteria for the ACP;
  • Includes the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as a qualifying program; and
  • Increases the maximum income for qualifying based on household income from 135% to 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Until the FCC’s final ACP rules become effective, providers may not require an eligible household to submit to a credit check to apply for the ACP benefit.

Providers that wish to participate in ACP must submit an election notice to USAC, including evidence that they offer broadband service in the state they want to participate. Please contact one of the JSI staff members listed below if you have any questions about the election notice process for ACP.

The FCC intends to release its final ACP rules this month. JSI will keep you informed on these developments and plans to host a webinar once the FCC releases its final rules. If you have any questions about the transition to the ACP, please contact Liz Kayser at 512-338-0473 or Lans Chase at 770-569-2105.