A recent article from Pew discusses the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and problems that may arise for low-income families if program funding runs out. The ACP, created by Congress in 2021 as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is a $14.2 billion program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides qualifying low-income households discounts on broadband service and connected devices. However, program funding is expected to run out by March 2024 unless Congress acts to allocate more funds for the ACP or make the program permanent.
Pew notes that despite the ACP showing successful results, with 18 million households enrolled so far, efforts to bring the program to qualifying households are still continuing in many states. Importantly, it was only in March 2023 that the FCC announced $66 million in grant awards to help entities like PHAs drive awareness and enrollment in the ACP; 15 CLPHA members received FCC grants totaling over $4 million. Failure to continue funding for the ACP would stymie stakeholders’ abilities to advance digital equity and use these funds to help low-income individuals in their communities enroll in ACP.
Not renewing funding for the ACP could also affect the success of similar programs like The Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which provides $42 billion states for connectivity efforts and requires that internet service providers (ISPs) participate in the ACP. Without these kinds of federal incentives, ISPs may choose not to upgrade existing networks or build new ones in low-income areas, and low-income households could lose crucial access to reliable, high-speed internet. Pew urges Congress to ensure the future of the ACP and not reverse its successes by continuing funding for the program.