FCC Issues Timeline for ACP Wind Down

The FCC order came a day after bipartisan legislation was introduced to extend ACP.

FCC Issues Timeline for ACP Wind Down
Photo of hourglass via iStock.

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2024 – The Federal Communications Commission announced on Thursday that starting February 8 it will no longer accept new enrollments for the Affordable Connectivity Program, barring Congressional approval of additional funding for the low-income program.

The commission issued a 15-page order detailing its timeline and requirements to gradually phase out the program.

The first in a series of deadlines is set for January 25, when providers must notify participants of the program’s anticipated end for the first time.

The FCC’s order came the day after bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the Senate and the House, proposing an additional $7 billion for the ACP program.

If passed, this funding would enable the FCC to extend the ACP until the year’s end, potentially negating some of the wind-down steps detailed in the recent FCC order.

Introduced in January 2022 to replace the Emergency Connectivity Fund that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACP offers monthly stipends of $30-75 for internet service to qualifying U.S. households.

In the recent order, the commission notes that with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress enacted several changes to the ECF Program to transform it from an emergency COVID-19 program to a longer-term broadband affordability program. 

The FCC continues to change the program to address participant needs. Most recently, the commission raised the monthly ACP benefit to $75 for high-cost rural areas and directed the Universal Service Administrative Company to accept applications from interested providers.

Yet, due to concerns about potential confusion, the commission canceled the plans for USAC to process applications in a recent order. 

Absent Congressional intervention, the FCC’s Bureau will announce the last fully funded month of the program in late February, currently projected to be April 2024.

Fifteen days after that announcement, providers will be required to send a second notice to ACP participants about the program’s end. The third notice issued will coincide with the last billing cycle that the full ACP benefit is applied to. 

Providers must secure a household’s explicit agreement to continue to receive broadband services after the end of the ACP.

In the order, the commission said it will begin to inform organizations that received outreach grants to cease outreach work focused on enrollment.

On Friday, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, alongside four community partner organizations representing the 240 outreach coordinators for the ACP, filed a letter to the FCC asking that ACP outreach grantees be able to redirect their funded work toward program wind-down activities, including “raising awareness about the potential end of the ACP.”            

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