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The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is now unavailable. The nation’s largest broadband affordability program, which started on December 2021, officially ended on June 2024. Calls of action and hope that the program will be extended eventually continue as industry stakeholders and the government officials show tremendous support.

Twenty-three million US households participated in the ACP program, which provided eligible households a discount of up to USD 30 per month on their internet bills, and up to USD 75 for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

In May 2024, participants received only partial benefits as the ACP neared its anticipated end.

Immediate Funding Required

Among the significant number of policy makers and other stakeholders urging Congress to carry on with the ACP program are thirteen telecommunications industry trade associations who sent a letter to Senate leadership urging to support an amendment to the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act.

Addressed to Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell, they advocate extended funding for FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and full funding to the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program (Rip & Replace Program).

According to FCC, there is currently a more than USD 3 billion funding shortfall as well to complete the necessary “rip and replace” work. Without additional government funding, national security worries could persist and potentially lead to network compatibility issues stemming from fragmented replacement of equipment.

“Fully funding the Rip and Replace Program is critical to securing our nation’s networks, including those serving rural areas, military bases, airports, and other areas of strategic importance,” said Tim Donovan, CCA’s President and CEO.

“Additionally, the ACP helps bridge the digital divide, benefiting 23 million households, including seniors and veterans, many in the same areas affected by the potential loss of service due to the Rip and Replace shortfall. Addressing both issues immediately is critical for supporting and maintaining connectivity across the country, especially in rural areas and low-income communities.”

While renewing ACP funding has bipartisan support, neither the Senate nor the House has taken a vote on it yet.

Hence, the Biden-Harris Administration perseveres to call on Congress to pass legislation that would extend free and discounted high-speed internet for eligible households through 2024.

“President Biden knows that even USD 30 is too much for some families, which is why he will continue calling on Congress to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program,” the White House statement reads.

“Yes, the ACP program cost money, but if you give people access to broadband and they’re able to participate in telehealth. They save a lot of money on their health care costs. The government that sometimes pays for their health care expenses is saving a lot of money,” said Senator JD Vance as he actively appeals for the fund extension.

A White House fact sheet reveals that nearly half of ACP subscribers comprise military families while older Americans, African Americans, and Latinos have also relied on the program.

Telecom Commitments

Fourteen internet providers, including AT&TComcastCharter’s Spectrum and Verizon, have made voluntary commitments to offer or continue offering their own low-income internet plans.

These providers will maintain broadband plans for qualifying ACP households at USD 30 or less, with no fees and data caps, until the end of 2024. This initiative is expected to cover roughly 10 million of the 23 million households relying on the ACP.

While no single resource can replace the USD 14.2 billion ACP, various local and state subsidies, nonprofits, and discounted plans from providers will help ease the transition. One of which is another FCC program called Lifeline that provides a USD 9.25 monthly benefit on broadband service for eligible households.

With the ACP running out of funding during the first half of 2024, this situation jeopardizes connectivity for all.

“Congress should take this opportunity to listen to the tremendous support from all stakeholders including industry, trade groups, public interest organizations, and the federal and state governments that are all calling to fund this vital program,” remarked Angie Kronenberg, President, INCOMPAS.