Half of U.S. households that benefited from the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) planned to either cancel or downgrade their broadband service after the ACP’s termination, according to the preliminary findings of a report from the Benton Institute on Broadband & Society.

The survey — which gathered responses from more than 2,500 U.S. households, each with a combined annual income of less than $50,000 — was completed in April 2024, as the ACP’s termination was on the horizon.

Survey respondents said they would be far less likely to shop online or engage in telehealth appointments when they lose ACP benefits. The Benton Institute estimated the loss of these consumer benefits and health care savings will cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion every year.

The survey’s preliminary results show the tremendous impact the ACP’s termination will have on households and providers:

  • 13% of those surveyed said they would likely cancel service entirely. Among households with combined incomes under $20,000, this rose to 18%.
  • 36% said they would downgrade service and seek a less expensive option.
  • 53% said it was already difficult to pay their internet bills, even with the ACP in place.
  • 43% of respondents are what the Benton Institute called “subscription vulnerable, meaning they live at or near the poverty line, have had service disconnected due to difficulties paying their monthly internet bills, or express significant concerns about service affordability.”

Rural users were well represented in the survey, which found that they pay more for broadband ($72 per month on average) than people in non-rural households ($62 per month on average).

While many providers are rushing to find replacement programs for the ACP, the survey findings suggest these benefits may arrive too late for those households that — as of April 2024 — were already planning to cancel service.

After the release of these initial findings, the Benton Institute told Telecompetitor it hopes to publish the full report on the effect of the ACP’s termination by the end of July.

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