The Affordable Connectivity Program Needs a Lifeline

The Affordable Connectivity Program Needs a Lifeline

Today brings unfortunate news. Because of dwindling funds in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), the FCC has directed ISPs to stop accepting new customers under the program. It means that, for the moment, households otherwise eligible for ACP will be unable to sign up for the program. And, if Congress fails to appropriate new funds, the program will collapse possibly causing millions of families to lose broadband service they have come to rely on. We continue to be optimistic that Congress can still throw this valuable program a lifeline.

ACP’s impact: This program has been wildly successful, signing up over 23 million low-income American households in rural and urban areas. These families depend on the monthly subsidy to subscribe to home internet service, enabling many to experience the internet for the first time. Indeed, a recent study conducted by Cox Communications found that 86% of newly-connected people say that access to broadband improved their lives while driving economic prosperity in their communities.

ACP was an essential part of the bipartisan 2021 infrastructure legislation, which dedicated unprecedented funding towards deployment in unserved rural areas with the BEAD program. The success of BEAD will rely on ACP continuing to ensure every American can access affordable, fast, and reliable internet service. It does little good to bring broadband to every doorstep if the subscriber is unable to open the door.

How it works: With its $30 monthly subsidy, ACP connects the most economically vulnerable to the modern workforce, educational opportunities, and other vital services. Every major broadband provider participates in ACP and many offer monthly plans that make the service free once the subsidy is applied.

ACP is better than past programs: It has significantly outperformed the previous FCC Lifeline program by doubling the number of participating households in just over one year of operation.

Congress consciously chose to design a program that would encourage provider participation – including cable ISPs that offer robust broadband across most of the U.S. – eliminating unnecessary regulatory conditions that had previously limited the success of prior programs.

The modern economy is powered by broadband, and access to the internet is key to participating in today’s marketplace. To ensure Americans have access to this critical economic tool, and to ensure continued growth of the digital economy, Congress must act to safeguard ACP’s continued success.

As our country forges ahead on the monumental task of connecting every American, programs like ACP play a key role in connecting those who need internet access but do not have the means to connect on their own. We applaud and encourage bipartisan efforts underway to preserve this invaluable program and continue the march to get all Americans online. Our industry stands ready to find solutions for ACP to receive valuable funding now for a sustainable future.