The Future of the Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), is a benefit program through the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that helps households afford access to broadband, which is now a necessity for work, school, healthcare, and more. Benefits within the program include a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

Data Shows the ACP Program is Critical for Enrolled Households

More than 23 million households are enrolled in the ACP. Data released by the FCC shows that before the ACP was implemented, 68% of these households had inconsistent or zero connectivity. The program is critical in providing affordable broadband to residents, especially in rural areas, who did not previously have adequate high-speed access. In rural areas, 53% of survey respondents reported having zero connectivity or relying entirely on mobile service prior to being enrolled in the ACP. This data shows that the ACP is essential for building capacity within regions, particularly in rural or hard to reach areas.  

Regional Councils Support an Extension of the ACP Program 

Regional councils, economic development districts, and councils of governments are supporters of the ACP and the programs’ ability to bridge current gaps in connectivity and accessibility. Most recently, the Land of Sky Regional Council Board of Delegates unanimously passed a resolution at its February 28 meeting to support the extension of the ACP. Land of Sky Regional Council (LOS) is a multi-county, local government, planning and development organization serving the greater Ashville region in western North Carolina. LOS has a long-standing history of helping community members in the region gain access to an affordable internet connection. LOS launched WestNGN to create more digitally connected communities across their region. These communities, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, have historically been underfunded and had poorly accessible digital connectivity. WestNGN has worked to close the significant gaps in broadband service and affordability to improve surrounding communities’ access to vital services. Federal and state programs like the ACP program have helped support broadband expansion in their region. 

The ACP Program Has an Uncertain Future in the Nation's Capital 

If additional funding from Congress is not provided, the last month for enrolled households to receive full benefits will be April. The FCC has begun taking steps to “wind down” the ACP as the funding nears close to running out. According to FCC’s ACP Wind-Down Fact Sheet, ACP applications and enrollments are no longer being processed as of February 8, 2024, however, households who have been receiving benefits prior to February 8 will continue to receive them until funds run out. The FCC is expecting significant service disruptions if the ACP ends. According to survey data, 77% of ACP households say losing their ACP benefit would disrupt their service by making them change plans or drop internet service entirely.  

The future of the ACP will be decided March 22, the deadline lawmakers set to pass the final six spending bills, including funding for the FCC. The delay in the appropriations process funding key federal programs like ACP has forced FCC to turn away Americans seeking service under the program, as demonstrated by the February 8 deadline for new applicants. Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the FCC, remarked on the importance of Congress allocating additional funding for the program. Rosenworcel stated, “The monthly subsidy is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” In the Administration’s supplementary budget, a request of $6 billion is included for the ACP. In January a bipartisan bill, H.R. 6929, the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024, was introduced. The bill would provide $7 billion for the ACP. No further action has been taken on the bill, leaving the future of ACP uncertain as Congress continues to negotiate appropriations. 

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