July 22, 2022

FCC Hears LeadingAge, Moves to Improve Affordable Connectivity Program for HUD Residents

BY LeadingAge

Directly aligned with LeadingAge’s suggestions to do so, the Federal Communications Commission will consider taking several steps to increase enrollment of HUD multifamily residents in its Affordable Connectivity Program.

“It is clear from the record that the groups that serve federal housing assistance recipients are mobilized and eager to continue to work with federal housing assistance recipients to maximize the benefits offered through the Affordable Connectivity Program,” the FCC wrote in a “third report and order.”

The FCC is very responsive to LeadingAge’s December 2021 comment on the ACP in documents just released in preparation for an August 5 FCC open meeting.

On these points, in a “third report and order,” the FCC says it will:

  • Explicitly clarify that Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance and Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly residents (current (and unhelpful) FCC language awkwardly refers to residents of “federal public housing assistance” as among those deemed eligible without providing much additional documentation).
  • Direct ACP administering agencies to “expand and swiftly finalize” a revised data sharing agreement with HUD that would allow more federal housing assistance recipients to automatically be approved for the ACP via its National Verifier system.
  • Consider, at its August 5 meeting, establishing a new $5 million “Your Home, Your Internet” pilot program to increase awareness of and encourage participating in the ACP program of households receiving federal housing assistance. The pilot program, which will provide grants to up to 20 government and nongovernment entities (including nonprofits and other housing providers) for application assistance and outreach efforts. The FCC would also make up to $5 million, on top of the $5 million for the pilot, available to fund the FCC’s own outreach, including in collaboration with HUD and other federal agencies serving federal housing assistance recipients.

However, the FCC did not agree with LeadingAge’s request to auto-qualify or bulk-enroll all residents of HUD-assisted communities. “Instead, the application assistance tools we adopt today as part of this pilot will build upon the database connections and existing matching agreements related to the National Verifier to further streamline the application process for federal housing assistance recipients, while at the same time protecting program integrity and consumer choice.”

Ensuring all older adult federally-assisted housing residents have access to quality, affordable internet is a key LeadingAge policy goal. The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which has already enrolled $14.5 million households since its enactment as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act of 2021, is a key part of reaching this goal.  

Read more about the ACP program here.

Read LeadingAge’s comments to the FCC here

Read more about the FCC’s August 5 meeting here.