June 16 -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) seeks comment on a proposal by the ACAM Broadband Coalition (Coalition) to achieve widespread deployment of 100/20 Mbps broadband service throughout the rural areas served by carriers currently receiving Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM) support. Comments are due on or before July 18, 2022, and reply comments are due on or before August 1, 2022.
In the NPRM, the Commission seeks comment on a proposal by the Coalition to achieve widespread deployment of 100/20 Mbps broadband service throughout the rural areas served by carriers currently receiving A-CAM support. The areas served by A-CAM recipients are among the costliest to serve in the nation, and by improving access to modern communications services, the Commission can help connect individuals living in rural areas to high-speed broadband. In seeking comment on the Coalition's proposal, the Commission recognizes that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act) recently created several pathways for federal agencies, in partnership with the states, to fund deployment of broadband in unserved and underserved areas. Given that A-CAM is already supporting the deployment and ongoing provision of some level of broadband service in rural areas through 2028 for most A-CAM carriers, enhancements to the A-CAM program, as the Coalition has proposed, may be an efficient means of funding deployment in a manner complementary to other federal and state efforts. If appropriately high-quality broadband can be deployed in a cost-effective manner by A-CAM carriers pursuant to the cost model, other agencies and the states will be able to target their Infrastructure Act funds to achieve more deployment elsewhere.
In this NPRM, the Commission also initiates a targeted inquiry into the management and administration of the high-cost program. For more than a decade, the Commission has made substantial progress reforming and modernizing the various high-cost support mechanisms and has gained valuable experience administering and overseeing the program. Based on those lessons learned, the Commission proposes targeted modifications to its rules to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the high-cost program.
The A-CAM programs currently provide support for more than 350,000 locations that could be considered “unserved” pursuant to the Infrastructure Act because the A-CAM carriers have commitments to provide service only at speeds of 10/1 Mbps or 4/1 Mbps, or on reasonable request, and more than 800,000 locations that could be considered “underserved” under the Infrastructure Act because the carriers have commitments to provide service only at 25/3 Mbps. The Commission seeks comment on the Enhanced A-CAM proposal and generally regarding how to leverage the existing, supported networks of A-CAM carriers to swiftly meet current legislative requirements and goals while avoiding duplicative support across programs and maximizing the efficient use of universal service funds. Furthermore, the Commission seeks comment on how to best and most efficiently implement and sequence Enhanced A-CAM so that it works in concert with the BEAD Program. Throughout, the Commission seeks comment regarding how these specific proposals are, or can be, made consistent with Congressional intent expressed through the Infrastructure Act and other legislation, as well as programs at other agencies.