Telecom Alert: NTIA Seeks Comment on Broadband Programs; ARPA Final Rule; Tribal Library E-Rate Eligibility; Affordable Connectivity Program Draft Rules [Vol. XIX, Issue 2]
NTIA Seeks Comment on Broadband Programs
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) issued a Request for Comment last week seeking public input on a range of issues associated with the broadband grant programs authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Infrastructure Act” or the “Act”) (Vol. XVIII, Issue 45). The Act allocated $48.2 billion to NTIA to fund broadband projects through various programs, such as the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (“BEAD”) and the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure (“MMBI”) programs. NTIA seeks comment on the best ways to maximize funding deployment for these programs. Comments are due by February 4, 2022.
ARPA Final Rule
The Treasury Department issued its Final Rule implementing the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (“SLFRF”) last week, which was established under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”) to provide state, local, and Tribal government with resources to respond to the pandemic. The final rule broadens eligible broadband infrastructure investments to projects designed to provide service to those with an identified need for additional investment. It also requires ARPA-funded broadband service providers to participate in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program or provide access to a similar affordability program.
Tribal Library E-Rate Eligibility
The FCC will consider a Report and Order at its Open Meeting on January 27 that will update the definition of library in the E-Rate program rules to provide clarity for Tribal libraries’ eligibility (Vol. XVIII, Issue 37). Libraries currently eligible for support under the E-Rate program are those that are eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act (“LSTA”), for which many Tribal libraries were ineligible. The Report and Order would clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible for E-Rate support and provide for targeted outreach efforts and programs for Tribal libraries.
Affordable Connectivity Program Draft Rules
Last week, the FCC released a draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would establish rules for the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (the “Program”) (Vol. XIX, Issue 1). If adopted, the Order would establish eligibility requirements for the Program and outline the reimbursement and claims processes to receive the up to $30 per month subsidy, or up to $75 per month on Tribal lands. The Commission also seeks comment on implementing a mechanism with which an eligible household in a high-cost area may receive an enhanced benefit of up to $75 per month.