FCC Proposes Transparency Rules and Seeks Comments for the Affordable Connectivity Program Data Collection

On June 8, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comments on how to collect and share Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) data.

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress instructed the FCC to initiate a proceeding on making ACP data available to the public. Specifically, the NPRM seeks comment on which ACP data to collect, how to collect that data, the format for the data’s publication, and the measures for protecting personally identifiable or proprietary information. As directed by Congress, the FCC must issue final “broadband transparency rules” concerning its annual collection of ACP pricing and subscription rates for participating households by December 15, 2022.

For ACP providers, the FCC proposes requiring service providers to share information with the FCC on a regular basis, which would be made available to the public. The FCC also proposes requiring service providers to complete new data fields in the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD) when enrolling new ACP subscribers.

The new data fields include:

  • Total monthly charge for internet service before any discounts (including bundled components, associated equipment, taxes, and fees);
  • Itemized breakdown of monthly charges, including the cost of ACP-supported service, associated equipment, discounts, taxes, and fees;
  • Plan specifics, including upload and download speeds, average latency and packet loss, data caps, associated equipment requirements for bundles, voice and video characteristics (e.g., number of minutes and number of channels offered); and
  • Plan coverage by geographic area as determined by the FCC.

Rather than collecting subscriber-level data, the FCC is considering collecting aggregated data. Here, service providers would be responsible for collecting, aggregating, and submitting this information from their ACP subscribers in the manner required by the Commission.

Should the FCC adopt these rules, service providers would also need to provide this type of data for households already enrolled in ACP. The FCC seeks comment on how to obtain data about the price and subscription rate of existing ACP households and the appropriate amount of time providers will need to submit the new information to NLAD.

Finally, the NPRM asks how the ACP transparency requirements will interplay with the Broadband Labels Rulemaking, in which the FCC is seeking comments on the specific information that should be contained on broadband labels. As of now, the FCC proposes requiring ISPs to display, at the point of sale, labels that disclose to consumers specific information about prices, introductory rates, data allowances, broadband speeds, and management practices. If this becomes part of the ACP data collection, service provider compliance with the labeling requirements could directly impact compliance with ACP.

These proposed rules, if adopted, could increase costs for smaller service providers to collect and submit this new information. JSI urges service providers to submit comments detailing how these additional reporting requirements may impact their business. JSI can also help you draft and submit comments.

JSI will be filing comments, so if you would like to participate, please let us know.

Waiver Extension – The FCC just extended the effective date of the ACP non-usage rules until September 15, 2022 for small broadband internet access service providers that serve Tribal ACP customers. Such providers who want to seek this limited extension must notify USAC on or before July 14, 2022, by emailing ACProgram@usac.org of their intent and include their relevant company name(s) and Service Provider Identification Number(s).

Comments will be due 30 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register. If you have any questions concerning the NPRM, any other ACP-related matter or filing a non-usage rules waiver – including JSI’s new comprehensive “ACP Compliance Package,” which helps companies navigate the FCC’s complex ACP rules – please contact Lans Chase or Dounia Chikhoune for assistance by clicking the button below.