Council Urges Congress to Renew Funding for Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
On January 25, 2024, The New England Council sent letters to the New England Congressional Delegation urging them to renew funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) before it is estimated to run out in April 2024. The ACP was launched by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 31, 2021, to comply with the Congressional directives in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The program is a $14.2 billion successor program to the Emergency Broadband Beneﬁt, which enabled nearly 9 million Americans to afford home broadband during the pandemic. This was a well-timed and much needed affordability solution as nationwide, two-thirds of the entire digital divide is due to affordability. Over 22 million Americans, including more than 786,000 households across New England, currently rely on the ACP for affordable internet service. However, if Congress does not prioritize extending funding for the ACP this year, participants will see an increase in their internet bill and may face losing internet service altogether.
This would occur just as states prepare to make the biggest broadband investment in history. Specifically, the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program relies on individuals being able to afford broadband access in order to incentivize the construction of high-speed broadband infrastructure in currently underserved areas. States are structuring these BEAD grant awards and ISPs are working through calculations on whether infrastructure build-outs are proﬁtable in rural areas. By allowing ACP to lapse, ISPs will inevitably rethink their calculations and may change or scrap construction plans all together. Without ACP, the BEAD program cannot fully accomplish its mission.
For more information on the Council’s Technology & Innovation Working Group, and work to ensure equitable access to broadband, please contact Mariah Healy.