Congress seeks to continue broadband service subsidies
ACP Extension Act would continue monthly broadband service subsidies for more than 20 million households
In the wake of the Federal Communications Commission announcing wind-down procedures for the Affordable Connectivity Program, a bipartisan group of Senators and House members have put forward legislation that would preserve the program.
Whether it succeeds, amid ongoing federal budget negotiations, remains to be seen.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has been urging Congress to provide more funding for the ACP for months, and the Biden administration has asked for $6 billion in supplemental funding to continue the program, which has enrolled nearly 23 million households across the United States.
The program expects its current funding to run dry in April. Last week, the FCC began providing information about wind-down procedures for participating service providers and customer notifications.
In response, the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act is being sponsored in the Senate by Senators U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and in the House by Representatives Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01). Additional co-sponsors who have signed on in the House include Reps. Michael Lawler (NY-17), Norma Torres (CA-35), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04), Debbie Dingell (MI-6), Darren Soto (FL-9) and Marc Molinaro (NY-19).
Under the ACP Extension Act, the program would receive another $7 billion in funding. The bill’s supporters said that the ACP has been utilized by over 800,000 veterans, one million college students, 3.1 million families with a K-12 student receiving free or reduced-price lunch and 5 million seniors across the United States.
More than 400 organizations, including CTIA, the Wireless Infrastructure Association, the Fiber Broadband Association, NCTA and telecommunications service providers including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Comcast, Charter and Cox have all signed on in support of the extension of the ACP.
“We are at a critical time for this program. A loss of funding will mean a loss of trust in this public-private partnership that could squander this opportunity to close the digital divide,” said FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez. “I am heartened to see bipartisan Congressional efforts led by Senators Welch and Vance and Representatives Clarke and Fitzpatrick. I remain hopeful that this program will continue to be funded.”
“Our members are competitive providers who are bringing faster, more affordable internet to communities across the country. We’ve heard directly from them that the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has been a huge driver for deployment and has connected millions of households across the country,” said Angie Kronenberg, president of INCOMPAS. “With the program in danger of running out of funding … we wholeheartedly support this piece of legislation to ensure it continues. Connectivity should not be a partisan issue; we urge all Members of Congress to recognize the immense value that connectivity brings not only to individuals but to our society as a whole and swiftly fund this program.”
The FCC expects to announce the last fully funded month of the ACP in late February—unless, of course, the program garners funding from Congress in order to continue. Contentious federal budget negotiations may still result in a partial government shutdown.