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End of ACP threatens NYC internet access

End of ACP threatens NYC internet access

NYC Internet

The looming expiration of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) could leave nearly 1 million low-income households in New York City without high-speed internet access, according to a new analysis. The federal program provided a monthly credit to internet service providers on behalf of qualifying customers based on their income. Its end has serious consequences for the city’s economy, reducing job applicants, hurting students who need internet for schoolwork, and preventing people from easily accessing benefits. “High-speed internet is the portal to almost every opportunity that exists out there today,” said Eli Dvorkin, Editorial and Policy Director at the Center for an Urban Future. “It would be a real detriment to New Yorkers in general and to New York City’s opportunity agenda if we lose that access.”

The program was most popular in East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Long Island City, which had the lowest broadband access citywide in 2021. Around two-thirds of households in East Harlem and the South Bronx received discounted internet through the ACP. Roughly 44% of all Bronx households were enrolled. Dvorkin said these households could immediately lose crucial connectivity at the end of May. “The reality is that for those nearly 1 million households, if they want to preserve their high-speed internet service, they’re going to have to dig deeper into their own pockets,” he said. “That’s going to be really tough.”

Bipartisan lawmakers, including Rep.

Impact on NYC’s digital divide

Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, are pushing Congress to restore funding for the program. “Truly, the ACP represents one of our best tools to close the digital divide,” Clarke said in a March statement. Internet service providers will cut off internet for customers who can no longer afford it or offer a discounted rate once the funding ends. Verizon, Optimum, and Spectrum representatives said they will still offer some discounted rates for low-income customers. Around 330,000 residents of NYCHA buildings already receive internet through Big Apple Connect, a $90 million initiative under Mayor Eric Adams. Their access won’t be affected by the end of the federal program, said Ray Legendre, a spokesperson for the City’s Office of Technology and Innovation. The city is still pushing for an extension to the ACP, and New Yorkers not included in Big Apple Connect should ask their providers about discounts, Legendre added. In 2022, the Adams administration announced a broader effort to expand free or low-cost internet citywide. The Internet Master Plan, developed under previous Mayor Bill de Blasio, called for using local small businesses to build out municipally-owned broadband infrastructure. Its architects estimated it would have delivered free or low-cost high-speed internet to more than a million New Yorkers.

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