Affordable Connectivity Program: FCC Warns That It Will Not Tolerate Fraud, Waste, and Abuse; Regulatory Fees for the Fiscal Year 2022 Are Due on September 28.
Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Inspector General (IG) warned all Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) participants to be careful about and avoid enrollment fraud. The IG is particularly concerned about how providers establish household eligibility when relying on a household member other than the service subscriber—a Benefit Qualifying Person (BQP). The IG’s analysis of applications for the program shows that several providers and their agents have enrolled many households into the ACP based on the eligibility of a single BQP, even though the FCC’s rules prohibit a single BQP from qualifying multiple homes for ACP support. In other words, the FCC deems these as “fraudulent enrollments.”
FCC Inspector General David L. Hunt said, “Providers are responsible for implementing policies and procedures for ensuring an ACP household is eligible under program rules. Providers who continue to seek program support each month after failing to properly train and monitor their sales agents’ enrollment activity will be held accountable.”
The Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) is also weighing in. The Bureau explains that it will use all available authority and tools to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in the ACP, including audit and investigatory procedures, in cooperation with the FCC IG and law enforcement agencies. The Bureau has also directed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to conduct program integrity reviews, expeditiously make modifications to the National Verifier system necessary to prevent these improper enrollments, de-enroll households, and institute payment holds where fraudulent registrations are found.
Based on this notice, we expect ACP participants to face repayment requirements, penalties, and potential disbarment from the program for failure to adhere strictly to the rules. These program rules are complicated and nuanced.
In other happenings, the filing window is now open for Internet telephony and commercial mobile radio service providers to pay their annual regulatory fees. To pay the fees, companies must use the FCC’s CORES system. New users must register through CORES, creating a username and password. Please click here if you already have an established username or want to register as a new user through the CORES system. Once the username and password are set, users can pay their regulatory fees by using the Regulatory Fee Manager. For further guidance, please review the Public Notice released on July 20, 2022.
If you have questions about how to comply or any other ACP-related matter—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.