USTelecom Wants Big Tech to Fund Low-Income Broadband Plans

'A permanent, fully funded solution to the ACP is essential for a competitive marketplace,' USTelecom says.

USTelecom Wants Big Tech to Fund Low-Income Broadband  Plans
Photo by Christopher Gower used with permission

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2024 – The Affordable Connectivity Program should be revived within the Universal Service Fund, and Big Tech should help pay to make it happen.

That is what USTelecom, a trade association for major internet service providers, argued to the Federal Communications Commission in a July 8 filing.

“A permanent, fully funded solution to the ACP is essential for a competitive marketplace,” USTelecom said. 

The USF is an $8.1 billion program run by the FCC that subsidizes broadband service in rural areas and in schools and libraries nationally. The USF also has a Lifeline program to help low-income families have affordable phone and broadband service.

The ACP, which provided a $30 monthly discount for internet bills to 23 million low-income households, ended on May 31 after Congress failed to continue funding it. According to USTelecom, the program was vital to the Biden administration's efforts to ensure all Americans were connected.

USTelecom said that the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, along with other federal projects, do not adequately address the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and operating broadband infrastructure after its construction. 

USTelecom said a financially strong USF, hosting the ACP, can address these gaps.

“It is also essential to the success of the BEAD Program’s goal to bridge the digital divide,” USTelecom said.

USTelecom’s comments were submitted by Policy and Advocacy Vice Presidents Kathleen Slattery Thompson and Diana Eisner.

To offset the USF's subsequent cost increase to fund the ACP, USTelecom said Congress should expand the contribution base to include Big Tech. Other major industry players, such as AT&T, have also requested this expansion to alleviate the burden on traditional telecommunication providers.

"The clear solution is to bring ACP into USF and the most sustainable way to do so is for Congress to expand the contributions base to include Big Tech, which would ensure sufficient funding while lowering the contributions factor," USTelecom said.

The USF has traditionally been funded by fees collected from legacy communication services, such as voice calls. However, as the communication landscape has increasingly shifted online, providers have called for Big Tech companies like Google and Meta to pay their fair share into the fund.

USTelecom said this additional contribution would “ensure sufficient funding while lowering the contributions factor.”

Popular Tags