FCC Seeks Comment on Enhanced ACAM Support
On May 20, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposal by the ACAM Broadband Coalition to create an Enhanced A-CAM program, which would achieve widespread deployment of 100/20 Mbps broadband service throughout rural areas served by carriers currently receiving Alternative Connect America Model (“A-CAM”) support. The proposal applies to A-CAM-I and A-CAM-II participants, as well as to locations in census blocks that had previously been excluded from A-CAM-I because of the presence of an unsubsidized competitor providing 10/1 Mbps service. The FCC seeks comment on the proposal to deploy at least 100/20 Mbps service to 90% of locations as determined by the Fabric in eligible census blocks, and at least 25/3 Mbps service to the remaining 10% of locations, and to increase monthly support for participating carriers to the higher of 80% of the company’s model estimated costs or $300 per location.
The FCC proposes (i) not to extend location count flexibility to Enhanced A-CAM because the Fabric ensures location counts will be more accurate; (ii) to implement a deployment schedule of at least 30% of eligible locations by the end of the second year after the program begins, and in each subsequent year an additional 10% of eligible locations; (iii) to establish new milestones for carriers electing Enhanced A-CAM, which would supersede those associated with ACAM-I and ACAM-II; (iv) to remove locations from eligibility if they are already funded through another federal/state program at 100/20 Mbps or higher; and (v) to have the increased support take effect immediately, with retroactive support paid back to the beginning of 2022, and to extend through 2034.
The Enhanced A-CAM program will provide much needed resources to help rural providers expand broadband service at faster speeds, including expansion to locations that were previously not eligible for A-CAM support. This proposed support will complement other federal and state efforts to expand broadband and target funds efficiently. Given the importance of this proceeding, and taken in conjunction with the influx of federal funding for broadband projects, we strongly urge carriers to carefully monitor this proceeding and file comments with the FCC. The NPRM is available at https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-proposes-higher-speed-goals-small-rural-broadband-providers-0.