Federal Communications Commission closes provider for latest RDOF funding: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission’s strict consumer protection rules for its Affordable Connectivity Program will make it harder for providers to exclude or terminate Internet customers based on credit scores and late payments , according to the agency’s lawyers.

The stricter rules are new additions to the grant scheme, which was known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit before the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act made it permanent as an ACP. The program provides a rebate of up to $30 per month on Internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on eligible tribal lands – as well as a one-time rebate of up to 100 $ for the purchase of a device.

In a preview of the program on March 9, FCC staff attorneys said at an event hosted by the Federal Communications Bar Association that the CPA’s implementing rules are designed to prevent predatory consumer practices. .

Jamile Kadrea lawyer for the Wireline Competition Bureau, said the rules allow customers to choose a service plan that best meets their needs, inform them of their rights and prevent providers from denying service based on their credit status.

The law specifically prevents providers from requiring eligible households to submit a credit check as a condition of applying for the program.

The rules, which aim to encourage more choice for consumers, also prevent providers from running credit checks to determine which CPA-supported internet plan a household can apply their benefit to or restrict the type of package available for a household according to its credit. However, providers may perform routine credit checks if they are part of the provider registration process for all consumers.

The CPA will also make it more difficult for providers to terminate domestic service for late payment. A termination can only be made if a customer stops paying for 90 consecutive days.

Prevent upselling and downselling

The IIJA also includes several rules that prevent providers from selling “inappropriate” incentive and incentive to customers using their advantage.

Upselling is a sales technique that encourages customers to purchase a higher-end version of the product than the customer originally intended, while upselling offers consumers the lower-priced version.

Screenshot of Jamile Kadre, attorney at the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau

“It’s important that the plans meet the needs of the consumer,” Kadre said, adding that there shouldn’t be any kind of inappropriate pressure on a household to buy a different plan “other than what they would have planned with different speeds”. or bandwidth.

FCC rules also bar customers from any obligation to join an extended service contract as a condition of program participation and prohibit providers from limiting a household’s ability to switch Internet service offerings.

While providers can require customers to return used equipment on-site, Kadre said the rules prevent practices that make a household believe they are prohibited from transferring their benefits to another provider.

The new rules come after an FCC watchdog found evidence of EBB fraud, including over-enrolled telecom households.

To be eligible for CPA, household income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or meet certain criteria such as participation in certain assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC.

Last month, the White House celebrated the more than 10 million American households registered with the ACP. Advocates urged the FCC to take action on barriers to awareness and encourage more households to apply.

Aurora J. William