On February 24, NDIA hosted a webinar on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Watch to get information on:
- ACP’s unique benefits
- Eligibility criteria
- Consumer protection provisions
- Legacy transition rules
- Programs and topics that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking further comment on
Certain questions came up during the webinar that we did not have an immediate, definitive answer to. We are digging deeper for answers to these questions and will relay the information to our community on this blog and through our listserv as soon as possible.
Affordable Connectivity Program Questions and Answers
You can send ACP inquiries to [email protected]
Posted March 28, 2022
Are initial service installation charges waived for ACP consumers? Are there any limits to the amount ACP participating providers can charge for initial service installation?
No, the ACP rules do not waive the initial service installation charges. However, if the provider charges an ACP household an initial installation fee, it must be charged on the same terms available to households that are not eligible for the ACP.
Can the ACP benefit be applied to the initial installation charge?
No. Assuming that the initial service installation fee is a one-time charge, the ACP benefit cannot be applied to the initial installation charge. The ACP benefit can only be applied to a recurring monthly charge.
What if the cost of the initial installation is amortized over monthly payments? Would it then be an eligible cost under ACP?
No. The ACP benefit is a monthly discount off an internet service offering, including taxes and other governmental fees. The Commission’s Order also allows the benefit to be applied to monthly rental costs for associated equipment. The FCC does not read the Commission’s Order or the statute as allowing the ACP benefit to be applied to an initial installation fee that is amortized and appears as a separate monthly charge to consumers.
The list of valid identification verification documents for the National Verifier includes “passport” but does not specify whether the passport must be a US passport. Would a non-expired foreign passport be acceptable proof of identity?
Yes. A non-expired foreign passport should count as proof of identification.
Can applying for ACP jeopardize my ability to obtain a green card or sponsor a family member under the public charge test?
No. Applying for ACP will not jeopardize anyone’s ability to obtain a green card or sponsor a family member under the public charge test.
Under the public charge test, if an immigration or consular official determines that someone is likely to become a “public charge,” the government can deny that person’s application for admission to the United States or an application for lawful permanent resident status (LPR status, also called a “green card”). However, receiving ACP benefits is not considered in the public charge test.
Note: The public charge determination happens when people are applying for certain visas or green-card (permanent resident) status. It does NOT apply when an existing green-card holder applies for US citizenship.
How much will the FCC spend on advertising and outreach?
The FCC is prepared to spend $100 million for ACP outreach activities over the next 5 years. The funding will be apportioned for different uses, including to stand up and implement an outreach grant program.
What is the “Navigator Pilot Program”?
The Navigator Pilot Program is a FCC pilot program announced in the ACP Report and Order that involves granting trusted, neutral third-party entities, including schools and school districts, or other local or state government entities, access to the National Verifier for purposes of assisting consumers with completing and submitting an ACP application. The FCC often refers to this program as the “Navigator Pilot Program.” You can find more information about the Navigator Pilot Program in Item 70 of the Report and Order. Note: The Navigator Pilot Program is not to be confused with the Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) Pilot Program, which is discussed starting in Item 281 of the Report and Order.
What is the timeline surrounding the Navigator Pilot Program? What is the application process like?
As of 3/24/22, there is no concrete information regarding the timeline of the Navigator Pilot Program or its application process. All we know is that the FCC’s planning for the pilot is well under way. At some point, the FCC will release more information regarding the pilot. NDIA will update the community as new information arises.
Will nonprofits and/or Federal Public Housing Authorities (FPHAs) be considered trusted, neutral third-party entities in the Navigator Pilot Program?
No. Nonprofits and FPHAs are not eligible “navigators” in the Navigator Pilot Program. Eligible “Navigators” are limited to schools, school districts, local government entities, and state government entities.
However, Item 70 of the Report and Order states that “government entities participating in this Pilot, for example schools, may seek to partner with neutral non-profit organizations for purposes of raising awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program and increasing the enrollment of eligible households.” Granted “access to the National Verifier through the Pilot is limited to actual representatives of the participating government entity,” and “enrollment activities through the National Verifier must take place in the government entity’s facility or other location maintained or operated by the government entity.”
Is the FCC open to feedback for the development of the Navigator Pilot Program? From organizations such as NDIA, or from states?
The Report and Order / Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) does not seek comment on the Navigator Pilot Program. The planning for the Navigator Pilot Program is well underway. NDIA recommends that organizations interested in providing comments about granting access to the National Verifier to groups for the purpose of ACP enrollment assistance refer to Item 285 of the Report and Order / FNPRM. Item 285 seeks comment on whether USAC should provide partner agencies in the FPHA Pilot Program with access to the National Verifier to assist applicants in ACP enrollment.
What is the FPHA Pilot Program?
The FPHA Pilot Program is a FCC pilot program focused on expanding ACP participation amongst FPHA beneficiaries, including increasing awareness and assisting with navigating the enrollment process. The FCC provides more details and seeks comment on the implementation of this pilot program starting in Item 281 of the Report and Order / Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
What is the timeline surrounding the FPHA pilot program?
As of 3/24/22, there is no concrete information regarding the timeline of this pilot program’s implementation. The window for organizations to file reply comments regarding the FPHA pilot program is open until 4/15/22. (Reply comments are comments that are submitted in response to others’ comments, usually supporting or disagreeing with them). The FCC will take those comments into account in further developing the FPHA pilot program. NDIA will update the community as new information arises.
Can individuals residing in homeless shelters receive an ACP benefit?
“Yes. The FCC clarifies:”
We note that with respect to homeless shelters, the affordable connectivity benefit is limited to one-per-economic-household, and household is defined as “any individual or group of individuals who are living together at the same address as one economic unit.” An economic unit is further defined as “all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household.” See 47 CFR § 54.1600(l). This definition of household recognizes that more than one economic household can reside at the same address, including in group living facilities such as shelters for unhoused individuals. We note that those living in a group facility such as a homeless shelter who do not share expenses could be considered an individual household that would be eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. (Footnote 309 in the Report and Order)
How can people experiencing houselessness identify their address in the ACP application?
There are multiple ways for applicants to list their address as part of the ACP application. For example, applicants can drop a pin on a map, or they can list an address that they frequent regularly.
Can an ACP consumer use their one-time device benefit on a device offered by a provider other than the provider through which that consumer receives ACP-discounted internet service?
No. An ACP consumer can only use their one-time device benefit on a device offered by the same provider through which that consumer receives ACP-discounted internet service. Unfortunately, if the provider through which a consumer receives ACP-discounted internet service does not offer a device option, then that consumer cannot use their one-time device benefit.
Will the ACP eligibility database be open to the public?
There are no plans to make the ACP eligibility database open to the public. However, through the Navigator Pilot Program, the FCC will provide certain trusted, neutral third-party entities with access to the National Verifier for the purpose of ACP enrollment assistance.
What solutions does the FCC have to help consumers address issues regarding disconnection?
The FCC has a dedicated ACP consumer complaint process. Consumers can submit a complaint form online and/or contact the FCC via phone (Phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275).
Posted March 3, 2022
What informational ACP resources, handouts, and/or info sheets are available to consumers?
The FCC has published an ACP consumer outreach toolkit that contains ACP infographics, fact sheets, and consumer handouts. You can find those materials here.
When distributing consumer resources to your communities, it can help to add your own organization’s logo/heading to these resources to increase trust in ACP.
How can libraries, school districts, and homeless shelters participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program as bulk purchasers?
The Report and Order states that homeless shelters, school districts, and libraries can be considered bulk purchasers and are allowed in the Affordable Connectivity Program. However, it does not elaborate further on what exactly this means for homeless shelters, school districts, and libraries.
The Report and Order talks about bulk purchasing arrangements through Multiple Dwelling Units more generally in item 103. It clarifies in item 104 that a household “must actually be charged an amount for broadband service prior to application of the affordable connectivity benefit. If the household is not charged for broadband prior to the application of the affordable connectivity benefit, for example, if the MDU provides broadband for free to all households or if a third party pays for the entirety of the household’s broadband leaving the household
without any charge, then there is no discount to be applied to a household’s bill for which the provider can seek reimbursement, as required by the Infrastructure Act.”
We are currently following up with the FCC to receive more in-depth information about how homeless shelters, school districts, and libraries can operate as bulk purchasers under the ACP. We will share any information we receive with the community as soon as possible.
Can school districts use ECF funds for bulk purchases while also participating as a bulk purchaser in the ACP? Is this double dipping allowed?
A school could participate in both programs but could not receive reimbursement for the same device or service funded through ACP. The ACP rules (FCC 22-2) require a provider to certify that no costs for service or devices sought for reimbursement have been waived, paid, or promised to be paid by another entity, including any other federal or state program (1808(e)(16). ECF has a similar rule against duplicate support in § 54.1712. ECF duplicative funding issues are also addressed in FAQs 11.1 and 11.2 (see here).
Therefore, for the most part, schools cannot functionally participate in both programs. However, there are some exceptions. Paragraph 125 and n. 340 of the ECF Report and Order (FCC 21-58) also explains that if a student’s household is receiving broadband services through the EBB Program (now ACP), that the student would not be eligible for broadband services though the ECF Program, but could still receive a connected device through ECF if they would otherwise lack access to a device for remote learning. Often times, a household may have multiple students and even if they were receiving broadband service through EBB/ACP, the students may still qualify for connected devices through the ECF Program.
What is considered a high-cost area under the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The Infrastructure Act requires the Commission to establish a mechanism by which a participating provider in a high-cost area may receive an enhanced benefit of up to $75 per month for broadband service “upon a showing that the applicability of the lower limit under subparagraph A [the $30 rate] to the provision of the affordable connectivity benefit by the provider would cause particularized economic hardship to the provider such that the provider may not be able to maintain the operation of part or all of its broadband network. In this context, the “high-cost area” is defined in a “separate section of the Infrastructure Act and to be determined by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) in consultation with the Commission.”
Namely, “High-cost area” is defined in Section 60102 Grants for Broadband Deployment of the Infrastructure Act:
(G) HIGH-COST AREA.—
(i) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘‘high-cost area’’ means an unserved area in which the cost of building out broadband service is higher, as compared with the average cost of building out broadband service in unserved areas in the United States (as determined by the Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the Commission), incorporating factors that include—
- (I) the remote location of the area;
- (II) the lack of population density of the area;
- (III) the unique topography of the area;
- (IV) a high rate of poverty in the area; or
- (V) any other factor identified by the Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the Commission that contributes to the higher cost of deploying broadband service in the area.
- (ii) UNSERVED AREA.—For purposes of clause (i), the term ‘‘unserved area’’ means an area in which not less than 80 percent of broadband-serviceable locations are unserved locations.
- **Unserved location means a broadband-serviceable location, as determined in accordance with the broadband DATA maps, that—
- (i) has no access to broadband service; or
- (ii) lacks access to reliable broadband service offered with—
- (I) a speed of not less than—
- (aa) 25 megabits per second for downloads; and
- (bb) 3 megabits per second for uploads; and
- (II) a latency sufficient to support real-time, interactive applications.
In the Request for Comment regarding the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, NTIA sought comment on the additional factors, if any, NTIA consider should in
determining what constitutes a “high-cost area”. As such, we suspect that NTIA will functionally and more specifically define “high-cost areas” in the BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity, which we expect to be released around mid-May.
On what items is the FCC seeking comment by March 16th?
The FCC is seeking comment on three items by March 16th.
1) FCC seeks comment on structuring an outreach grant program in support of ACP consumer outreach (❡271).
2) FCC seeks comment on a proposal to launch a pilot program focused on expanding ACP participation by Federal Public Housing Assistance beneficiaries (❡281).
3) FCC seeks comment on the implementation of the enhanced benefit for high-cost areas (❡287).
Providers that are not already state approved eligible telecom (ETC) providers—but who wish to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program—can seek an automatic or expedited approval from the FCC to do so. When will the FCC begin such approvals?
Participating providers who participated in the EBB program and are in good standing are automatically transitioned to the Affordable Connectivity Program on December 31, 2021. Non-ETC providers that participated in the EBB program and are in good standing have thus been automatically transitioned to ACP. However, “non-ETC broadband providers that did not participate in the EBB Program or are seeking to expand previously approved jurisdictions for participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program must file an approval application with the Bureau prior to filing a USAC election notice.” Approval applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. We interpret this to mean that the FCC can currently review non-ETC approval applications. For more information about non-ETC approval processes and participation in ACP, see items 29 and following in the Report and Order.
In the Report and Order, the FCC directed the Bureau, in coordination with USAC, to conduct a third party enrollment assistance pilot program which would provide trusted, neutral third party entities with access to the National Verifier for purposes of assisting customers with applying for the ACP. Have entities for this pilot program been selected?
No. The Report and Order states that “The Bureau shall determine the scope of this Pilot, and the process for identifying potential participants” and that “The Bureau may issue public notices or engage with stakeholders as needed to obtain information necessary to establish this Pilot.” The Report and Order does not provide any details about the pilot program’s timeline. We will remain engaged and will make sure to relay information regarding this pilot program to the community as we receive it. You can read more about this pilot program in item 70 of the Report and Order and submit relevant inquiries to [email protected].
Under the Affordable Connectivity Program, eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. Does this mean that the maximum price point for an eligible ACP device would be $149.99?
Yes. A consumer using the $100 ACP discount on a device must contribute more than $10 but less than $50, making the maximum price point for an eligible ACP device $149.99 (100 + 49.99).
Are 3rd party organizations/individuals allowed to charge individuals for helping them fill out ACP enrollment/sign-up forms?
There does not seem to be any rules against this. We would not recommend charging people for helping them with ACP enrollment, as many ACP enrollees have lower incomes.
Will the FCC/USAC release ACP data that is broken down by demographics, in addition to zip codes?
The FCC describes the ACP enrollment data requirements in item 209 of the Report and Order. It states that USAC should publish “enrollment data including, enrollee age category, eligibility
category, including households enrolled on the basis of enrollment in a provider’s existing low-income program, type of broadband service, and enrollment numbers by five-digit ZIP code areas…We further direct OEA and the Bureau to take into consideration the types of data requested by commenters when determining the additional program data, if any, that can be made available.” In item 211, the FCC also directs the Bureau and OEA, with support from USAC, “to collect as necessary appropriate data and develop metrics to determine progress towards” closing the digital divide, “such as broadband adoption by first-time subscribers, and increasing enrollments in areas with low broadband internet penetration rates.”
Is an applicant who only resides in the community served by a school in the USDA Community Eligibility Provision eligible for ACP?
No. The applicant needs to have a child enrolled in that school to be eligible for ACP through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision. You can read more about the Community Eligibility Provision in the ACP and the corresponding verifying documentation requirements in items 52 and following in the Report and Order.