Lights about to go out on US Affordable Connectivity Program

A partial benefit in May then subsidy gets unplugged once and for all

The end is nigh for the US Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) as funds finally run out after months of warnings.

April was the final full month of the program. Some households might receive a partial discount in May if their provider is willing to participate, but that really is the end.

Federal Communications Commission chairwoman Rosenworcel sent a letter [PDF] to Congress on May 1, warning lawmakers that the program would officially wind down at the end of the month unless additional funding was forthcoming.

The ACP offered eligible US households a discount of up to $30 a month on internet service and up to $75 per month for eligible households on qualifying tribal lands. At the beginning of the year, almost 23 million households had enrolled in the program.

It was introduced in 2021 and at the time nearly 40 percent of households in the US qualified for the subsidy. It was aimed at, among others, households with incomes at twice (or less) the federal poverty level or with a member on Medicaid.

Rosenworcel warned: "If additional funding is not promptly appropriated, the one in six households nationwide that rely on this program will face rising bills and increasing disconnection.

"77 percent of participating households report that losing this benefit would disrupt their service by making them change their plan or lead to them dropping internet service entirely."

According to Rosenworcel: "68 percent of ACP households stated they had inconsistent or zero connectivity prior to ACP."

A bipartisan ACP Extension Act to provide an additional $7 billion in funding was introduced in January 2024, but as of today, little progress has been made, and the program will end. Affected households should already have received notifications to that effect.

During a briefing earlier this week, the White House press secretary, Karin Jean-Pierre, blamed Congressional Republicans for the end of the ACP.

Jean-Pierre went on to say that the US administration had urged providers to offer low-cost or no-cost plans to affected households.

In 2023, senators including Ted Cruz wrote [PDF] to Rosenworcel, querying the program's effectiveness and worrying about the amount of tax dollars being spent subsidizing households that already had broadband before. ®

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