The Federal Communications Commission has adopted an order to make permanent its program that provides communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind. The Commission launched the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), also known as “iCanConnect,” as a pilot program in 2012. Since then, the program has provided up to $10 million annually to support programs that distribute communications equipment to Americans with hearing and vision loss. Through iCanConnect, consumers who are deaf-blind and who meet income guidelines can receive free equipment designed to make telecommunications, Internet access, and advanced communications services accessible. Installation, training, and other technical support are also available.
The Commission’s Report and Order will maintain the program structure used in the pilot program, under which the Commission certifies one entity per state or territory to distribute equipment and provide related services. The new rules also maintain existing certification criteria, which include expertise in the field of deaf-blindness, the ability to communicate effectively with individuals who are deaf-blind, adequate staffing and facilities, and experience with the distribution and use of communications equipment. The Commission’s recent action will make iCanConnect available to more consumers by extending the program to residents of the U.S. territories of Guam, Northern Marianas, and American Samoa, in addition to the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for a total of 56 certified programs.