Provider Info Gaps, Price Hikes Top List Of Emergency Broadband Benefit Gripes

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The Federal Communications Commission is receiving consumer complaints concerning the disconnects between benefits touted as part of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the frequent failure of broadband internet access service providers to deliver on those promises. Some providers are forcing consumers to change plans in order to get the $50 monthly subsidy or not validating customers' already-established eligibility to participate. About 19% of the complaints reported service-tier issues that complicated the participation in the program. Most of these consumers told the FCC they were being required to upgrade their plans — or in a few cases, to downgrade — in order to qualify for the benefit. Another 30% of the complainants said they experienced difficulties with getting providers to recognize their eligibility to receive the benefits, even after qualifying for the program through the FCC's sign-up portal. The other half of the complainants reported miscellaneous issues with the program.

Even though providers are allowed to choose which service tiers they subsidize, the optics of so-called forced upgrades could undermine trust in the program and contribute to a slowdown in program signups, said John Horrigan, a broadband adoption expert with the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. "These are populations on pretty tight budgets," he said. "If they don't feel they can trust providers, they may hesitate to sign up."

ISP Info Gaps, Price Hikes Top List Of EBB Gripes