FCC: April is last month for Affordable Connectivity Program payments

US broadband customers prepare for the great disconnection

The end is nigh for the US Affordable Connectivity Program, with April being the final full month of the program.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made the announcement on March 4, 2024, after months of protests failed to persuade lawmakers that keeping the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) running was worth the expense.

According to the FCC, more than 23 million US households rely on the program for high-speed internet access. The project subsidizes qualifying users to the tune of up to $30 a month for internet service or up to $75 a month for residents living on recognized tribal lands.

New enrollments were stopped on February 8, 2024, as funding dwindled, and April 2024 will be the last month in which the ACP benefit will be provided in full. Customers will start to see the impact of its end in their May bills.

The Biden-Harris Administration sent the US Congress a supplemental request for $6 billion to continue the program in 2023 and, in a White House briefing on February 6, 2024, said: "The Biden-Harris Administration continues to call on Congress to pass legislation that would extend free and discounted high-speed internet for eligible households through 2024."

Sadly, words alone will not keep the data flowing.

In her latest letter to lawmakers regarding the situation, chairwoman of the FCC Jessica Rosenworcel noted the impact already being felt by households now locked out of enrolling in the program. "Others," she said, "have contacted the agency to express concern about the impending end of the program, noting its impact on older adults, families with school children, and military families at risk of losing their internet service without the ACP benefit.

"They worry that without ACP support, they will lose access to employment, education, health care, and more."

Rosenworcel said that 68 percent of ACP households had zero or inconsistent connectivity prior to their participation in the program. More than 75 percent expected service disruption if ACP ends.

There is strong bipartisan support for continuing the program. However, the ACP also has its detractors. In a letter [PDF] to Rosenworcel at the end of 2023, US senators, including Ted Cruz, queried the numbers stated by the FCC and pointed to "the program's record of targeting taxpayer subsidies to consumers who already had broadband."

"It is incumbent on lawmakers," said the US senators in 2023, "to protect taxpayers and make funding decisions based on clear evidence." ®

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