Tariff Revision Enables Broadband Discounts for Low-Income Rural Students

Randy Sukow


The National Exchange Carriers Association and the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau said yesterday that a series of tariff revisions have gone into effect, enabling rate-of-return carriers to offer discounts on broadband service to certain low-income families. Rural carriers will temporarily be able to offer eligible 25 percent discounts on new service and speed upgrades at no additional cost to eligible customers already subscribed to the internet.

The temporary change reflects rural telcos’ desire “to help rural phone and internet providers recognize the needs of students in low-income households for broadband services during the COVID-19 pandemic,” NECA said on its website. “Households with a student in grades kindergarten through 12 who qualify for a reduced cost or free lunch through the National School Lunch Program are eligible.”

Tariffs affected refer to asynchronous and synchronous DSL services. Those subscribing to ADSL service at 6 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream will be able to take advantage of the free upgrade to 100/50 service. Those subscribing to SDSL at 10/10 will be able to upgrade to 100/100.

“I applaud the hundreds of NECA members that are committed to helping low-income students in their service areas connect and stay connected to the Internet,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a press release (PDF).  “I’m pleased the Commission worked with these rural carriers to enable more low-income students in their communities to benefit from cheaper, faster broadband service.”

The latest revision is a continuation of an FCC policy to use tariff changes to lower rural broadband rates during the pandemic. Also early in the crisis, hundreds rural telcos met the FCC’s call to Keep Americans Connected, in which broadband providers promised not to terminate service for nonpayment during the worst of the COVID=19 crisis. However, that pledge expired in June and telcos have been seeking other ways to relieve low-income families.

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