Millions Face Higher Internet Bills as Federal Program Expires

A federal program that subsidizes internet bills for low-income households is now on the chopping block, dealing a financial blow to millions.

End of the ACP

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The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal benefit program instated in 2021 that has been providing low-cost internet for low-income households for the last 3 years.

Running Out of Funds

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But the program is running out of funds and is set to expire on Wednesday, potentially leaving millions of Americans in the lurch.

Internet for 60 Million

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Currently, the ACP provides internet to approximately 60 million people, many of whom are over the age of 50, based on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data. Many of these households also include military veterans and rural households.

Modern Household Necessity

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A working internet connection has increasingly become a basic necessity for most households across the country, as people use it for work, to communicate with family, to pay bills, order groceries, and more.

“Internet Has Become So Essential”

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“They wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the internet because the internet has become so essential, so they put together a program,” said economics professor Bradley of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Monthly Benefits

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Through the ACP qualifying families could receive a $30 monthly internet subsidy, and households on tribal land could claim as much as $75 per month.

A Terrible Choice for Millions

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Now it is feared that millions of low-income Americans will be forced to choose between paying for food and paying for their new internet bills.

Serious Fears for Families

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A recent survey backed by Comcast showed that 65% of participants who receive ACP benefits fear they will lose their jobs without the monthly payments. Over 80% believe it will negatively affect their children’s grades at school.

Benefits Reduced, Applications Closed

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The expiration of the program was announced back in May, with the program reducing the benefits that families would receive by half. Applications to the program were permanently closed on February 7.

“Demand is High”

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“There’s no denying that demand for ACP support is high,” said FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel. “But absent additional funding from Congress, the ACP will run out of funding after April 2024.”

It Will “Undo Significant Progress”

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“As a result, the Commission has started to wind down the program. This includes ceasing new enrollments on February 8, 2024,” she continued. “The end of the ACP will undo the significant progress this program has made towards closing the digital divide.”

$14.2 Billin Funding

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Beginning in 2021, the program was initially given $14.2 billion in funding due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Congress passed in the same year.

No Moves from Congress

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The FCC pointed to ongoing political squabbling as the cause. As the program continued to run out of money and implored the government to provide more, Congress made no moves to approve extra funding.

“Widening the Digital Divide”

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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,” said former FCC official Gigi Sohn.

“It’s Embarrassing”

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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,” she continued.

Political In-Fighting in Congress

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The current Republican-led Congress has made extensive moves to reduce government spending, which has resulted in months of blocked bills and delayed aid packages.

The Next to Fall

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The ACP is one of a number of programs and bills that have fallen victim to the GOP crackdown. Experts, like policy analyst Blair Levin of New Street Research, believe that funding would be approved if House Speaker Mike Johnson allowed a vote.

“He Will Not Allow the House to Vote”

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“So far, he has not said anything about it, but it appears he will not allow the House to vote on the legislation,” Levin shared. “He has not, to my knowledge, said anything substantive about the legislation or the program.”

A Self-Defeating Strategy

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Others have called it a self-defeating move by the Republican speaker and other Congress members, as the program provides millions in savings to residents of red districts, according to White House data.

Supported on Both Sides

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What’s more, the ACP has proven to be a bipartisan law that has received overwhelming praise and support from both Democrat and Republican voters, according to surveys.

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