Connect with us

International Circuit

FCC ends Affordable Internet Program due to lack of funds

The Affordable Connectivity Program, which helped low-income Americans get online, is no more.

On Friday, the US government announced the final closure of the broadly popular federal program, which has helped tens of millions of households afford internet service after Republicans in Congress ignored calls by consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers to approve more funding this spring.

The program’s lapse threatens to throw nearly 60 million Americans into financial distress, CNN has reported.

The program officially ends on June 1, said the Federal Communications Commission, which administered the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to approximately 1 in 5 households across the country and on tribal reservations.

The 2.5-year-old ACP provided eligible low-income Americans with a monthly credit off their internet bills, worth up to $30 per month and as much as $75 per month for households on tribal lands. The pandemic-era program was a hit with members of both political parties and served tens of millions of seniors, veterans and rural and urban Americans alike.

Program participants received only partial benefits in May ahead of the ACP’s expected collapse.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program filled an important gap that provider low-income programs, state and local affordability programs, and the Lifeline program cannot fully address,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement, referring to the name of another, similar FCC program that subsidizes wireless and home internet service. “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 bipartisan legislation to extend the ACP in the months leading up to the deadline. But the bills languished in the face of inaction by Republican leaders who showed little interest in engaging with the issue. President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers have publicly blamed GOP leadership for allowing the ACP to end.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Mike Johnson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, Biden reiterated his calls for Congress to pass legislation extending the ACP. He also announced a series of voluntary commitments by a handful of internet providers to offer — or continue offering — their own proprietary low-income internet plans.
The list includes AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Charter’s Spectrum and Verizon, among others.

Those providers will continue to offer qualifying ACP households a broadband plan for $30 or less, the White House said, and together the companies are expected to cover roughly 10 million of the 23 million households relying on the ACP.

The ACP was initially funded by Congress with a one-time budget of $14 billion. 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, said 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.” CNN

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2024 Communications Today

error: Content is protected !!