FCC $18 Billion in Cost Model Funds, FTC Refunds Vonage Customers, Iowa Broadband

FCC approves $18 billion for rural broadband expansion under the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model.

FCC $18 Billion in Cost Model Funds, FTC Refunds Vonage Customers, Iowa Broadband
Photo from MacMurray and Shuster

October 31, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday that it has authorized $18 billion in funding to support broadband service providers who have accepted the speed targets set out by the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model program.

The Enhanced-ACAM program requires carriers to provide broadband speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload or faster in certain rural areas.

In an authorization report released by the Wireline Competition Bureau Monday, 368 companies were authorized to receive Enhanced-ACAM support for a period of 15 years starting January 1st, 2024.

Those companies outlined will now offer high-speed internet service to 700,000 previously unserved locations across the United States, while working to “maintain or improve” service in two million locations who are already being served with speeds of 100 * 20 Mbps.

FTC awards $100 million in refunds to Vonage users

The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that it will be refunding Vonage customers who were subject to “junk fees” and difficulty canceling their services.

The telecom service provider agreed to settle for $100 million with the competition watchdog, which said it will be sending payments to 389,106 users who were subject to the unsavory practices.

The FTC alleges Vonage charged customers unexpected early termination fees and weren’t consistent with the phone line hours for cancellation requests.

In November 2022, the FTC filed a complaint against Vonage alleging that it made canceling subscriptions overly difficult by requiring users to speak directly to representatives, and oftentimes failing to follow through on cancellation requests.

Iowa awarded $150 million in broadband grants to state projects

Iowa announced Monday a list of rural broadband projects to which it intends to award nearly $150 million in federal funds. Recipients include providers like Alpine Communications, Cedar Communications and Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association Inc..

The money from the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program will go toward 39 broadband projects. The program is supported by the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan Act as well as Treasury’s $10-billion Capital Projects Fund.

Those who received funding will now have to choose whether to accept or reject the offer, and should they accept will receive funds contingent upon their execution of the grant agreement.