“iCanConnect” program for territory coming — probably next year

Provides communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind
fili@samoanews.com

In making a permanent program that provides communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind, the US Federal Communication Commission has also extended the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) to residents of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, according to an FCC order on Aug. 4 and public notice published Monday this week on the federal portal [www.regulations.gov]

Asked when the program, also known as “iCanConnect” will be effective for American Samoa, FCC spokesman Will Wiquist told Samoa News that it “could start as early as ‎July 1, 2017. We can't say definitively at this point as it depends on the timing of a final review process that should conclude early next year.”

The Aug. 4th order was announced at the FCC Disability Advisory Council (DAC) meeting last week Thursday during the FCC DAC meeting in Washington D.C. Among the members of the FCC DAC is Tafaimamao Tua-Tupuola, director of the University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, American Samoa Community College, according to FCC records.

“Although the percentage of deaf-blind is very low in American Samoa, this can also expand to the Aging — Senior Citizens — who may have both visual and hearing loss [and] may qualify to receive the equipment,” Tua-Tupuola said via email last Thursday evening from Washington D.C. She is currently serving her last year in the two-year term.

According to the FCC order and published information, the NDBEDP was implemented in 2012 as a pilot program for all 50 states, Washington D.C and the two US territories in the Caribbean.  Since then, the program has provided up to $10 million annually to support programs that distribute communications equipment, helping Americans with hearing and vision loss to connect with family and friends and become more independent.

The order shows that American Samoa, Guam and CNMI will each be allocated just over $50,000 annually, based on the FCC’s funding mechanism.

The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) has implemented the program since 2012 and is charged with certifying and overseeing 53 entities, collectively referred to as “certified programs” or “state programs,” that distribute equipment in each state, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

While FCC has directed CGB to certify one entity for American Samoa, Guam and CNMI, the Aug. 4th order says a single entity may apply for certification to serve the residents of one, two, or all three of these territories.

“The Commission (FCC) notes that, given the relatively small funding allocations and uniquely small populations of these remote jurisdictions located in the South Pacific region, certifying the same entity to serve all three jurisdictions may enable the consolidation of administrative functions, as well as coordination and conservation of resources,” the order says.

Details of the program, including the federal definition of “deaf-blind” can be found on www.regulations. gov under the docket: FCC-2016-0299-0001

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