The future seems bleak for low-income families! The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which has played a vital role in reducing the digital divide for the past two years, may end this spring. This largest broadband affordability program, launched in 2021, has gained nationwide popularity for making high-speed internet accessible to millions of Americans.
However, ACP’s future has become uncertain due to its depleting funds. It means that over 22 million Americans could lose affordable broadband support. So, what is the FCC’s next step? And what should you expect as an ACP household? Read on to find the latest updates about the ACP.
The ACP has been a beacon of hope for many struggling financially. This $14.2 billion program has helped over 22 million households to get an affordable internet service. The ACP’s benefits include a $30 monthly discount on internet service and a one-time $100 device discount per household to digitally equip the masses.
The monthly broadband discount is up to $75 for people living on qualifying Tribal lands. The FCC partnered with many ACP internet providers to make affordable internet more accessible. However, the FCC is winding down ACP due to the depleting funds.
Congress allocated $14.2 billion for the ACP in 2021. While this funding seemed a lot at the time, the program gained nationwide popularity, and millions registered for affordable broadband support. By the third quarter of 2023, Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC’s chairwoman, announced that the ACP was supporting over 20 million Americans. This number has since increased to more than 22 million in 2024.
However, Congress has not assigned additional funds for the ACP. As a result, the allocated money is estimated to run out by April 2024. Therefore, the FCC is now taking steps to wind down this program, such as:
ACP internet providers will send three written notices to their customers enrolled in this program. You might already have received the first notice on January 25, 2024, and you will receive the second one within 14 days after the FCC announces the last fully funded month of the program. They will send the third notice before the end of this program, with your last bill containing the complete ACP benefit.
The second and third notifications will inform you about the expected changes in your monthly internet bill. Your providers will give you the option to either change your internet plan or opt out of their service.
While the FCC also has a Lifeline program that provides a $9.25 subsidy on your internet connection, it mainly focuses on home phone service. Moreover, it cannot compete with the broad scope of the Affordable Connectivity Program. So, what are the implications if the FCC completely halts the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The discontinuation of ACP will bring considerable consequences, impacting millions of households, communities, and internet providers. Low-income families would be forced to leave their reliable internet service due to extra charges, leading to internet service providers (ISPs) losing customers. The termination of this program will also impact struggling students as they might lose access to a reliable internet service right before the end of their academic year.
The ACP’s ending will also significantly affect numerous states as they rely on it for their digital equity programs. In short, the ACP’s cessation will put a considerable strain on the country and may deprive millions of people of internet connectivity, which in turn will add to the digital divide.
A group of legislators have proposed the Bipartisan, Bicameral Extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program Act to ensure impoverished households do not lose internet connectivity. However, it is facing several obstacles due to various reasons, including tight deadlines to allocate funds, qualification requirements, and disagreements between different parties.
Public awareness and demand may force Congress to pass the bill. So, you should play your part in spreading the word about the ACP and urge your local leaders to sign the NLC’s letter asking Congress to pass the extension act. The Affordable Connectivity Program is a lifeline for millions of people, and it can be saved if Congress allocates extra funds.