Affordable Connectivity Program ends due to funding

Affordable Connectivity Program ends due to funding

Connectivity Ends

The Affordable Connectivity Program, which helped low-income Americans get online, has officially ended.

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission confirmed that the program closed on June 1 due to insufficient funds. The ACP provided eligible households a monthly credit of up to $30 off their internet bills and as much as $75 per month for those on tribal lands.

The pandemic-era program served tens of millions of seniors, veterans, and rural and urban Americans.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program filled an important gap that providers of low-income programs, state and local affordability programs, and the Lifeline program cannot fully address,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. The Commission is available to provide any assistance Congress may need to support funding the ACP in the future and stands ready to resume the program if additional funding is provided.

Some US lawmakers proposed extending the ACP in the months before the deadline, but Republican leaders’ inaction prevented them from proceeding.

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President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers criticized GOP leadership for allowing the ACP to end. On Friday, Biden reiterated his calls for Congress to pass legislation extending the ACP. Additionally, he announced a series of voluntary commitments by internet providers to offer their own low-income internet plans.

Providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Charter’s Spectrum, and Verizon will continue to offer qualifying ACP households a broadband plan for $30 or less. Together, these companies are expected to cover roughly 10 million of the 23 million households relying on the ACP, which was initially funded by Congress with a one-time budget of $14 billion.

Affordable Connectivity Program ends.

Biden has asked for $6 billion to continue the program, and one bipartisan bill proposed renewing the ACP with $7 billion in additional funding. Kathryn de Wit, director of the Pew Charitable Trust’s broadband access initiative, expressed her disappointment, stating that reaching the deadline without a solution from Congress was a “disheartening” outcome.

“Without intervention, households participating in the program will immediately see their internet bills go up,” de Wit said. We know cost is a key barrier to connecting low-income families to the internet, so without ACP, we can expect most participating households to either downgrade or drop their plans altogether.

Despite the uncertainty, several alternatives and resources can help bridge the gap. One federal subsidy that remains available is Lifeline, which provides $9.25 per month to low-income households for internet or cellphone plans.

Eligibility requirements are stricter than those of the ACP, such as having an income 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines, equivalent to $40,500 for a family of four. Some states and cities across the country offer their own low-cost internet options, and many internet providers also offer discounted plans for low-income households.

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The requirements are typically similar to the ACPs, such as meeting certain income thresholds or participating in federal programs like SNAP or the National School Lunch Program. Several nonprofits aim to close the digital divide by helping with internet costs or providing devices. These organizations include Connect All, EveryoneOn, Human-I-T, and Internet for All Now.

While the ACP provided significant assistance, these alternative resources and programs can help those in need to continue accessing the internet.


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