The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) could get a new lease on life if federal legislators vote to approve legislation introduced in the Senate and in the House today. The bipartison legislation, to be known as the Affordable Connectivity Extension Act of 2024, would provide an additional $7 billion for the program, which will run only through April unless the funding is approved.
Late last year, President Biden asked Congress to make an additional $6 billion available for the program, which would have extended it through the end of this year, but Congress did not comply with his request.
The introduction of the two bills today was likely triggered by the letter that FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel sent to key members of Congress on Monday. In the letter she said the commission would begin efforts to wind down the program this week if new funding was not forthcoming.
While noting that she would prefer to see new funding made available, she noted that service providers and funding recipients should get sufficient notice if indeed the end of the program is in sight.
The ACP pays $30 a month toward the cost of monthly broadband service for low-income households. It also pays some of the cost for one computer or similar device per household. The program was introduced at the beginning of 2022 with a budget of $14.2 billion that is dwindling fast.
The Affordable Connectivity Extension Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vermont), JD Vance (R-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) and Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota). In the House, the act was introduced by Yvette D. Clarke (D-New York) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania).
Service providers will face a revenue hit if the act is not adopted, according to Blair Levin, policy advisor for New Street Research. Concerns have also been expressed that the upcoming $42.5 billion BEAD rural broadband deployment program will be less successful if the ACP goes away because that will impact the viability of potential buildouts.
USTelecom and NCTA—The Internet & Television Association immediately issued statements in support of the legislation.
“The ACP Extension Act of 2024 is a critical and common-sense step towards keeping these millions of families online and fulfilling our nation’s bipartisan commitment to bridging the digital divide once and for all,” said Jonathan Spalter, USTelecom President and CEO in a prepared statement.
“With the internet such an integral part of our daily lives, ensuring the ACP has adequate funding is a critical national priority,” said NCTA in its prepared statement.