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FCC urged to limit data collection on Affordable Connectivity Program, others want more: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission is being warned not to burden Internet service providers with its congressionally mandated order to collect price and subscription rate data from Affordable Connectivity Program participants.

Under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the FCC is required by Nov. 15 to adopt rules to collect annual data relating to the price and subscription rates of each offering Internet service from a provider participating in the Broadband Subsidy Program, which offers up to $30 per month for low-income households (up to $75 per month on tribal lands) and a one-time $100 rebate on a device.

But a number of submissions caution the FCC against rules that require additional data collection efforts beyond the scope of the law so as not to unduly burden providers and, at least one other business group. said, keep vendors away from participating in the program.

Telecommunications company Lumen, for example, recommended that the commission limit the scope of the annual report to monthly pricing and exempt “overly granular” requirements, such as promotional pricing, grandfathered packages or subscriber-level data, which the commission proposes to collect. .

Communication companies and industry groups want to limit data collection

T-Mobile said in its brief that Congress had asked the FCC to rely on consumer broadband labels, which are due to arrive in November, for pricing. The commission asked for comments on the IIJA’s interpretation of requiring reliance on price information displayed on consumer labels.

For subscription information, T-Mobile is urging the commission to review the data collection of the Universal Service Administrative Company — which administers high-cost broadband programs for the Universal Service Fund — to avoid “adopting a largely redundant collection that would impose additional burdens” on all parties.

“The IIJA leaves the Commission no discretion to collect additional price information, and the law does not require the collection of data on other service plans and network characteristics,” such as speed and latency and data allocations, the document states.

“Collecting this additional data would create additional burdens and is not necessary,” the submission added.

Similar limitations have also been proposed by Starry Telecom Inc., which has pushed for privacy by collecting data at a higher level (like the state) and working with information collected under other transparency efforts, such as consumer labels.

Industry association IMCOMPAS, which represents the Internet and competitive communications networks, told the FCC in a brief that data collection should be limited to the state level to protect consumer privacy and proprietary information. suppliers; streamline the collection of other data, including consumer labels; and provide instructions on how providers should better understand data collection rules.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association agrees with this position, which stated that data collection should be simple and should not go to a level of detail that goes beyond what the IIJA requires. The trade group, which represents small suppliers, said such data collection beyond what is required by law could weigh on companies with small teams.

The data included, WISPA said, should be an annual aggregate of items, including broadband plans subscribed by ACP customers, number of subscribers for each plan, and pricing less promotional rates, taxes, discounts. or price breakdowns for bundled services. Any additional onerous collection could see vendors exit the program, he added.

Industry groups US Telecom and NCTA – Internet and Television Association also requested a simple annual report that captures undiscounted monthly prices for each broadband service offering and the number of subscribed customers. The Competitive Carriers Association and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association have also recommended a limited data collection approach.

ACA Connects, a trade group representing small and medium independent carriers, said the FCC should order providers to report the number of ACP households “that apply their benefit at each speed tier as well as the standard price for each tier on a state-by-state basis” – rather than the ongoing collection of subscriber-level data proposed by the FCC through the national liability database Lifeline, he said, adding that the commission should be mindful of the time required for completion, as small suppliers have limited resources.

Others push for subscriber level, more data

The cities of New York and Seattle, in their submissions, said the FCC should collect subscriber-level information to gauge different rates of service adoption on different plans over time — publishing categories based on the price, plan and performance by zip code. He added that he was not looking for information on the households themselves and said it would not be a privacy issue, as others have pointed out.

Similarly, the Connecticut Office of State Broadband said the commission should go beyond the IIJA’s requirements by requiring information, including plan performance and whether a device is offered.

For the National Alliance for Digital Inclusion, PCA data collection should include data beyond what is included in consumer labels, and should include other elements such as installation, equipment, service, miscellaneous, data and usage charges, and state and local taxes.

In a joint submission, nonprofit media group Common Sense and internet advocacy group Public Knowledge recommended collecting data needed to monitor the CPA, including promotional rates, taxes, overage fees and the costs of appliances and equipment. That way, they say, the FCC can get a better idea of ​​how much is spent on internet access after the subsidy is applied. They are also asking the commission to collect information on whether the grant is being used to improve or reduce current service, and how customers learn about the program.

The commission is currently trying to enroll more Americans in the program, which has more than 13 million registered households. That number, the commission said last week, is expected to be much higher. As such, he ordered the development of an outreach program to market the grant.