Millions at Risk as Affordable Internet Program Winds Down

Millions of Americans are at risk of losing their access to the internet as the government begins winding up the Affordable Connectivity Program, the FCC warns. Here are the details.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

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Back in 2021, Biden’s administration greenlit the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a $14 billion investment that would lower the price of internet access for low-income households, allowing tens of millions of people to access the internet.

ACP’s Impact on Internet Accessibility

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The ACP offers a federal subsidy of $30 per month on internet bills to low-income households. 

Funding Challenges Faced by the ACP

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However, as funding is now dwindling, the program has refused new applicants since February, and the FCC is beginning the process of shutting down the program.

Congressional Inaction 

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Lawmakers have known that funding was low for months, but they’ve been unable to pass a $6 billion additional funding bill through Congress. 

No Additional Funding

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And now, with the passing of the last-minute budget worth $1.2 trillion – of which there was no money earmarked for the ACP – critics are saying that they’ve missed their chance.

Suspension of New Applications

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The ACP has begun sending out letters to participants, warning them that the program is coming to an end and to watch out for an increase in their monthly internet bill.

Benefits of Affordable Internet Access

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For many low-income individuals, affordable internet access has been life-changing. After the rollout of the ACP, some internet providers lowered their plans to $30 a month, making broadband basically free for millions of people.

Transformational Effects on Low-Income Individuals

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This cheap internet has helped many seniors reconnect with their families, keep up to date with the news, and stay generally connected to the world at large. 

The Importance of Internet in Modern Society

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It’s also helped children from lower-income families do their schoolwork and many other millions to find work, use public services – which are relying more and more on people having internet connections – and have online doctor appointments.

Risks Posed by the Digital Divide

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The internet has become a critical lifeline in the modern era. Without internet access, households across the U.S. risk falling behind in education, employment opportunities, and healthcare access, widening the gap between the digitally connected and the digitally isolated.

Projected Impact After May Deadline

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Once May hits, however, the FCC is warning that over 23 million households will be without internet access and unable to afford the massive bills that providers are charging.

Concerns About Affordability for Millions

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“Because of political gameplay, about 60 million Americans will have to make hard choices between paying for the internet or paying for food, rent, and other utilities, widening the digital divide in this country,” a senior FCC official told CNN.

Bipartisan Support for ACP

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The ACP was one of those rare policies that was overwhelmingly popular with both sides of the political lines. It had massive bipartisan support, as well as public and government backing.

Political Implications 

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“It’s embarrassing that a popular, bipartisan program with support from nearly half of Congress will end because of politics, not policy,” said the FCC official.

Demographic Breakdown of ACP Beneficiaries

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According to data collated by the White House and BSG (a survey group), military families are the largest beneficiaries of the ACP, totaling just under 50% of users.

Worries Among ACP Users About Job Security

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65% of all ACP users are worried that they’ll lose their jobs or their primary source of income if the ACP were to stop, while 75% are worried about losing access to important healthcare services. 

Impact on Children’s Education

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ACP parents were also incredibly concerned that their kids would fall behind in school without the ACP, with 81% indicating they were worried.

Legislative Stalemate in Congress

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Despite the overwhelming popularity of the ACP, a divided Congress has meant that any legislation put forward hasn’t moved an inch. 

Republican Opposition

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In early January a bipartisan group put forward a bill for $7 billion to save the ACP, but House Republicans have refused to let it through.

Fiscal Policies

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According to an industry analyst, Republicans are “attempting to demonstrate that they are cutting back on government spending,” which will now have the unfortunate effect of millions of Americans losing an essential utility.

Economic Benefits of ACP Investment

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Advocates of the ACP argue that it’s saving money in the long term. They point to recent research indicating that every $1 on the ACP equals a $3.89 increase in the U.S. GDP. Republicans, however, are not budging.

Potential Electoral Ramifications

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Experts warn that if the ACP ends up dead, lawmakers are likely to feel the repercussions come election day.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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