The Federal Communications Commission announced on Feb. 8 that it had ceased accepting applications and enrollments for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes internet access for nearly 23 million Americans. The agency said it had taken this action because the current program only has funding through April 2024 and Congress has not passed legislation that would allow it to operate past then.
The FCC explained the situation in a notice on its website: “Barring additional funding from Congress, April is expected to be the last month enrolled households will receive the full benefit. Consumers had to be approved and enrolled with a service provider by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 7th to receive the ACP benefit.”
The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a $30 discount per month on internet service to eligible low-income households ($75 per month for those residing on tribal lands). People enrolled in the program can also receive a one-time discount on the purchase of a computer or tablet. The program was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021.
Military veterans receiving a pension can also qualify for the program. In a Feb. 5 post, the American Legion veterans organization said that more than a million veterans would lose access to discounted internet services if the program ends.
“High-speed internet access is particularly important for veterans living in rural areas because they depend on the technology for health care, education and other needs. More than half have at least one service-connected health issue,” the Legion further noted.
The program is part of the Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative, which calls for government and private sector action to provide access to assist education, health care and economic needs. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many relied on the internet to continue working, attend school, and search for jobs.
“Disconnecting millions of families from their jobs, schools, markets, and information is not the solution. We have come too far with the ACP to turn back,” FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a Feb. 1 release.
According to the FCC, 937,041 people in Michigan are currently receiving assistance via the Affordable Connectivity Program.
There are currently identical bills in the House and Senate that would fund the program through the 2024 fiscal year. The bills have been referred to their respective appropriations committees and have not yet received a floor vote.
The legislation has received wide support from advocacy and civil rights groups.
“The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024 is a bi-cameral, bi-partisan solution ensuring the digital divide continues to shrink, and that the federal government’s investment in broadband infrastructure remains equitable,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a Jan. 10 statement.