Key politician grills ISPs about broadband subsidy signup trouble

A prominent Congressman demanded more than a dozen operators respond to allegations that they’re making it hard for consumers to sign up for or transfer a $30 per month broadband subsidy offered through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Frank Pallone, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sought to probe the issue in letters sent to the likes of Altice USA, AT&T, Comcast, Charter Communications, Frontier Communications, Lumen Technologies and Verizon this week. The letters ask operators to provide a range of information, including how many ACP customers each has, how many complaints they’ve received from customers about their ACP processes, whether they’ve billed enrolled ACP customers without applying the benefit and whether their ACP customer service agents engage in promotion of non-ACP offerings.

According to Pallone, the inquiry comes in response to reports indicating customers have faced issues with enrollment, transfer or delayed application of their benefits; having their benefits transferred to a new plan without their knowledge; or being required to opt-in to a full-priced service in the future, resulting in surprise bills.

“Recent complaints allege actions that are now explicitly prohibited by Congress and the FCC,” he wrote. “I take these consumer complaints seriously and want to ensure that all providers are abiding by the law so that all eligible consumers can truly benefit from these programs.”

He gave providers until November 9 to respond.


The Affordable Connectivity Program launched at the start of 2022 and replaced the earlier Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program which rolled out in May 2021. This isn’t the first time issues have been reported with these subsidy programs.

In August 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned imposter sites falsely promised to enroll subscribers in the EBB in an apparent bid to steal personal information. A few months later, the FCC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) flagged numerous instances of fraudulent enrollments in the program.

Last month, the OIG issued a fresh fraud warning, this time in relation to ACP signups. At the time, it noted participating ISPs and their agents were “making fraudulent program enrollments by using the same child or dependent to qualify multiple households for simultaneous ACP support.”

In a statement issued in response to the September report, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr called for more preventative action. “Whatever we are doing to deter this type of fraud is not working,” he said. “More action is needed to safeguard these federal dollars and ensure that they deliver on the goals Congress has set out.”

As of October 24, more than 14.6 million households were enrolled in the ACP.