By Karen Stokes
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides free high speed internet to working families across the country including Black and Latino households will be running out of funds this April if Congress doesn’t act soon.
“In the 21st century, affordable reliable high speed internet is a key to opportunity. High speed internet is necessary for all Americans to do their jobs. Millions of Americans still can’t afford the cost of monthly internet connection. These disparities fall within familiar lines, underserved communities, rural communities and the elderly,” said Stephen Benjamin, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement during a press call.
On November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act) became law. The Infrastructure Act provided $14.2 billion to modify and extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program) to a longer-term broadband affordability program.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris are committed to ensure that everyone in America has access to affordable reliable high speed internet by the end of the decade. And we’re investing $90 billion dollars to meet that goal,” said Benjamin. “As of today we have reached an impressive milestone with the Affordable Connectivity Program, 23 million households are now enrolled in ACP. That means over 50 million Americans.”
Unfortunately, due to a lack of additional funding from Congress, the Affordable Connectivity Program will not be able to accept new applications after February 7, 2024.
Funding for the program is projected to run through April 2024. This date is an estimate and could possibly change.
There’s just under $4.1 billion left in the ACP fund for allocation. As of January 8, there were 22.5 million households enrolled. California had the highest number of enrollees with about 2.8 million, followed by Florida (1.7 million), New York (1.7 million), Texas (1.65 million) and Ohio (1.1 million).
“Without action from Congress, funding for this program is slated to run out at the end of April. Millions of families have already received notices that their internet bills will be increasing as of midnight tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will pause enrollments in the program,” Benjamin said.
In a letter to key members of Congress, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency has no choice but to begin “orderly wind-down procedures.”
Rosenworcel in the letter urged Congress to allocate an additional $6 billion to the program, which she said would extend ACP benefits through the end of 2024.
A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators introduced the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act (H.R. 6929/S. 3565). This bill would provide the ACP with an extra $7 billion to extend the operating timeline and ensure participating households do not lose connectivity. While the bill is bipartisan, it faces some roadblocks to passage: Congressional deadlock over spending, objections by some legislators to the program and its benefit levels or qualification requirements, and the tight timeline to appropriate funds to continue the program without interruption. However, the increase in public awareness about the threat of expiration and constituent anger at the approach of the deadline may help motivate legislators to support the bill.
“We are continuing the call to fund this program which is now providing 23 million families in America with high speed internet. This is important,” Benjamin said.