NRECA met recently with Federal Communications Commission staff to discuss key issues and programs that can help electric cooperatives overcome barriers and receive assistance to deliver affordable high-speed internet to their members.

The $14 billion Affordable Connectivity Program, an initiative the commission oversees to connect low-income households, was the chief topic at the meeting with members of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s staff.

ACP funds internet providers that discount service by up to $30 a month for qualifying consumers—$75 for those on tribal lands. Much of federal broadband deployment aid requires providers’ participation in the ACP, but that program’s funds are projected to run out in the first quarter of 2024.

“We conveyed to the FCC that our members serve 92% of the persistent poverty counties, so affordability of broadband is very important,” said Brian O’Hara, NRECA senior director of regulatory affairs for broadband.

“The ACP plays an important role in connecting low-income rural Americans and needs to be funded on a permanent basis. We have advocated for this funding in the past and will continue to do so.”

O’Hara and NRECA Regulatory Affairs Director Greg Orlando are meeting with staff of the other three commissioners over the coming weeks to discuss co-ops’ key challenges in delivering broadband.

Those challenges include encouraging the FCC to boost its definition of broadband from 25 megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload to a minimum of 100/100 Mbps.

Electric co-ops already are providing these higher speeds to their members with fiber but can be outbid for federal aid by for-profit providers offering slower, cheaper service, O’Hara said.

“Awarding a low-speed provider funds for an unserved area can hold that community back for years from true reliable broadband,” he said.

How the FCC identifies unserved or underserved territories on its National Broadband Map will also be a key topic the NRECA team will bring to commission staff. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will use the FCC map to allocate $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment assistance.

“The commission has updated its data collection and process to allow challenges to its designations, but the map continues to rely on service and speeds as advertised by network providers,” said O’Hara. “We hope to convey our concerns that this data may be inaccurate and, as a result, rural unserved areas will remain left far behind.”

NRECA Broadband is positioning co-ops as a crucial force in rural broadband. Visit to learn more and sign up.