The FCC plans to stop accepting new enrollments to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on February 8, said the commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release and in letters to Congressional appropriators today. The program pays $30 toward the cost of broadband service for low-income households but is projected to run out of funding some time in May.
Rosenworcel made it clear that she does not want to see the program end.
“It bears repeating that today nearly 23 million households nationwide are enrolled in and benefitting from the ACP,” she wrote in the letter.
Unless federal legislators make additional funding available for the ACP, she said, “these households will lose an important benefit and are at risk of losing the internet service they rely on for work, school, health care and more.”
She cited research from a recent FCC survey of ACP recipients that found that nearly three-quarters of households use their discounted internet service for health care, approximately half use it for employment and approximately three quarters of ACP subscribers between 18- and 24-years old use it for school.
The survey also said that if the ACP ends, more than three quarters of ACP households would see service disrupted or would have to change their existing plan or completely stop service.
Perhaps in an effort to capture the attention of local media and legislators’ constituents, Rosenworcel included a list showing the number of households enrolled in the ACP by state and by Congressional district in her letter.
A color-coded map that graphically depicts the data is also available on the FCC website.
Rosenworcel also reminded letter recipients of other upcoming ACP-related deadlines initially outlined in mid-January. One of those requirements is for broadband providers participating in the ACP to take multiple actions to inform households receiving ACP service discounts about the impending end of the program.
Shortly after the FCC released that guidance, bipartisan legislation that would increase ACP funding by $7 billion was introduced in the Senate and in the House, but Telecompetitor has heard from several sources familiar with the situation that the legislation doesn’t have a strong chance of being adopted.
In a research note in mid-January, New Street Research Policy Advisor Blair Levin said he doesn’t believe the Speaker of the House will allow the House to vote on the legislation, effectively killing it. He added, though, that the situation could change if constituents become sufficiently upset and vocal about not wanting the ACP to end.
Telecompetitor checked back with Levin today to check if his assessment had changed.
“My sense of the probabilities is unchanged,” he said.
He believes the bill would pass if it were to get to the floor. “But the current dynamic makes it unlikely that that will happen,” he said.