FCC Imposes New Data Collection Requirements on Providers Participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program
On November 23, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established a new reporting requirement called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Transparency Data Collection.
The new requirement mandates entities participating in the ACP to provide certain information to the FCC concerning their internet service offerings’ prices and subscription rates. The deadline for complying with the new requirements, many of which are the same as in the FCC’s recent broadband labels order, has yet to be set.
The following is an overview — including answers to the critical who, what, where, when, and why questions — that ACP providers should know about the ACP Transparency Data Collection.
The rules apply to all providers, regardless of size, if they participate in the ACP and have enrolled subscribers.
Providers must report to the FCC their aggregate — not subscriber-level as proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) — price and subscription rate data by zip code for each of their service offerings if subscribed to by ACP enrollees. Reports must include the following:
- A certification by an officer of the provider under penalty of perjury as to the accuracy of the data submitted.
- A unique identifier for each plan that matches the plan’s corresponding broadband label identifier.
- The total number of ACP households in each zip code served by the provider that subscribes to each plan offered as well as more granular subscription rates for participants in the FCC’s Lifeline program, recipients of the ACP Tribal enhanced benefit, and those households receiving the enhanced benefit for high-cost areas.
- Service plan characteristics — including maximum advertised speeds and latency, bundle characteristics, and associated equipment requirements for each plan. Such reporting must also include information concerning data caps and data cap overage fees.
- Plan pricing should reflect the amount a household would pay absent the ACP discount and mostly mirror the price reporting requirements found in the recently adopted broadband label rules. Such information must include the base monthly price, whether the monthly price is an introductory rate, and itemized recurring and one-time monthly fees.
- Optional reporting — providers may also submit bundled service or all-in pricing. Bundled services include broadband internet access and video, voice, and text. All-in pricing is the actual price paid for service by the ACP household, not including the ACP benefit amount. In addition, certain subscription rate information collection is optional, including the number of enrollees in introductory pricing plans, those who paid set-up or activation fees, and the number of subscribers whose monthly bill is $0 after applying for the ACP benefit.
- Legacy or grandfathered plans that are no longer offered are exempt from some, but not all, reporting requirements. For example, providers need not submit information concerning typical speed or latency, introductory charges and periods, length of any required contracts, and one-time fees.
Six months after the submission deadline, the FCC will make publicly available aggregated state-level, non-provider-specific data on plan pricing, speed tiers, and the number of subscribers. The data will be made available in a downloadable format, such as a Comma-Separated Values (CSV) file.
Providers must submit the required information annually. The inaugural deadline has yet to be established; the earliest it could be is 90 days after review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Moreover, the FCC must revise these information collection rules to verify the accuracy of the data within six months. In the meantime, we must wait for the FCC to:
- Issue guidance concerning when a provider is required to formulate a new unique identifier.
- Establish a reference or “snapshot” date for the data submitted by providers — which will be no less than 60 days before the annual data submission date.
Additionally, the FCC adopted an accompanying Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in which it seeks comment on proposals that are likely to impact ACP providers. Providers may want to comment on these and other relevant issues:
- How should the FCC improve the ACP Transparency Data Collection rules to verify the accuracy of the data submitted under this collection?
- Should the FCC collect additional information, including subscriber-level data and data on subscriber interactions with provider representatives?
- Should the FCC require providers to obtain subscriber consent for using their data in the information collection?
- Should the FCC require providers to submit connection reliability or other quality of service metrics?
- In addition to zip code, should the FCC require providers to collect and submit aggregate data by county or census tract?
- Should the FCC collect information about first-time broadband users?
- Should the FCC collect data on the enrollment process, connected device offerings, and the availability of low-income plans?
- How should the FCC define and protect personally identifiable information that could impact your customers’ privacy?
- How should the FCC protect proprietary business information that could impact your company?
- What burdens would any of the preceding proposals entail on small providers?
Congress mandated that the FCC collect price and subscription rate data for service offerings subscribed to by ACP households. ACP providers that fail to comply with the ACP Transparency Data rules face serious consequences, including:
- Potential enforcement actions — with base forfeitures for failing to provide the required information beginning at the lesser of $22,000 or the latest monthly claim amount for each state for which a provider has been unable to submit complete information.
- Losing their eligibility to participate in the ACP.
Please note that this e-Lert provides only an overview of the ACP Transparency Data Collection. Although the FCC seems to have inadvertently omitted the comment filing deadlines from the order, typically, the due date for filing comments is 30 days after the publication of the order in the Federal Register.
For additional details on this new information-reporting requirement and for assistance with registering your concerns as comments in the rulemaking proceeding, please contact Policy Director Guy Benson (email@example.com), Federal Compliance Director Lans Chase (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Policy and Compliance Analyst Dounia Chikhoune (email@example.com) or simply click the button below for assistance.