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Lack of funding could end the $14.2-billion affordable connectivity program

The Affordable Connectivity Program was set up over two years ago and tens of millions of Americans across the nation have received a monthly credit toward their internet bill to have access to reliable, high-speed broadband at a price they can afford.

Next month there will be no financial assistance to the more than 23 million households enrolled in the program unless Congress manages to pass an extension.

The $14.2-billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) began at the end of 2021 in response to the pandemic, but has become a key part of the U.S. social safety net. Yet despite broad bipartisan support, the ACP is likely to lapse amidst political logjam over a host of other issues.

“The impact here is going to be just monstrously devastating,” Stone, the Denver Public Library system’s technology education administrator, told Context.

“The folks who are in the most precarious positions will lose their ability to connect with those networks that can actually provide them support.”

Around 14% of Denver residents previously lacked an internet connection, he said.

Stone was planning to head to a housing development for elderly people that had used the ACP’s $30-a-month subsidy to get internet connections for the first time.

Now, he said, “they all got notices that the ACP is going away, and no one has any idea what their options are.”

The Universal Service Administrative Co., which administers the ACP, referred questions on guidance for local officials to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which did not respond to queries.

There are several attempts in Congress to extend the ACP temporarily, alongside longer-term strategies on making funding for such an internet subsidy permanent.

But it could be too late.

“Lack of funding could end this critical program, raising costs for hardworking families,” said U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada said in a statement.

Rosen helped create the ACP and is now leading efforts to get it extended and figure out permanent funding.

“Access to high-speed internet is a critical lifeline for families to access telemedicine, complete schoolwork, and even run a business,” she said. Reuters

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