The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a U.S. government benefit program designed to help low-income families pay for internet service. This is part of the government’s Internet For All initiative which has several programs to increase availability of high-speed internet services.
More information is available at www.affordableconnectivity.gov.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced the standup of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC). This will be a cyber defense collaboration with major technology companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, etc. More information is available at www.cisa.gov/jcdc.
Virginia passed new privacy state legislation in March 2021: The Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA), which is scheduled to go into effect as of January 1, 2023. The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) has summarized the requirements of this new state law intended to protect the privacy of Virginia residents.
U.S. Hospitals must list the price they charge for at least 300 different services as of January 1, 2021 according to the new Hospital Price Transparency law. The price lists must be in a consumer-friendly display format as well as downloadable data file formats on each hospital’s website. More resources regarding this new rule can be found at www.cms.gov/hospital-price-transparency/resources.
The No Surprises Act of 2020 is a separate ruling that expands restrictions on charging health care plan holders out-of-network rates for certain services. This is set to go into effect in 2022.
Update: Three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – announced changes to medical collection debt reporting in March 2022. Effective July 1, 2022, paid medical collection debt will no longer be included on consumer credit reports. In addition, the time period before unpaid medical collection debt would appear on a consumer’s report will be increased from 6 months to one year. These credit reporting agencies will also no longer include medical collection debt under $500 on their credit reports starting in the first half of 2023.
The Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA) requires providers of internet, voice, mobile, and data to engage in transparent sales and billing. It also prevents providers from charging a consumer for using equipment not provided by the service provider, such as a modem. The FCC granted providers an extension for this legislation until December 20, 2020. Modem rental fees should not be charged to consumers who provide their own equipment after that date.
The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) was signed into law on December 30, 2019. This new U.S. law will set fines on spam robocallers and requires phone companies to adapt call authentication technologies to deter robocalls. The FTC and FCC government agencies also have some instructions to reduce the number of received robocalls.
Spam text messages should not be responded to, including the STOP reply. This lets the sender know that the phone number is legitimate. Do not click any links in these text messages. These unwanted messages can be be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by forwarding them to 7726 (SPAM).
U.S. taxpayers have the option to file their income taxes for free using the Free File Program from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $69,000 or less (2019 tax year requirement). The tax preparer must start the filing process at www.irs.gov/freefile instead of a commercial tax software website in order to avoid being prompted for payment.
The Free File program is part of an agreement between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of tax software companies.
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC) can also provide help to low income individuals with tax issues.