23,269,550 ACP Households

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, March 1, 2024

Digital Beat

23,269,550 ACP Households

Four Things We Can Say About Each Of Them

Drew Garner

23,269,550. This was the number of households participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) when enrollment closed on February 8th, 2024. It is more than one out of every six households in the United States.1

The ACP is less than three years old,2 and it has already grown into the most successful broadband affordability program in U.S. history. That is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the widespread need for affordable internet service.

ACP has overwhelming support from voters, advocates, industry, state officials, and Members of Congress.

But 23,269,550 is also a very high precipice from which to fall.

If the ACP ends, all enrollees will experience some combination of bill shock, disconnections, financial sacrifice, service downgrades, and/or household debt. Any successor program will have to start from zero and rebuild in the shadow of Congress’ broken commitments.

What We Know About ACP Households

23,269,550 households is a large and diverse group of people. Yet we know four things about nearly all of them:

  1. They are in difficult financial circumstances. An individual enrollee likely makes less than $20,000/year; an enrolled family of four likely makes less than $40,000/year.3 For people in such circumstances, survey after survey after survey after survey after survey finds that cost is a primary barrier to internet adoption. 
  2. They invested significant time in the ACP. Some ACP applications took 30-45 minutes, others spanned multiple days. Many require additional documentation, and all need annual recertification. Even if every application took only five minutes, the collective amount of time spent enrolling would total over two centuries
  3. They trusted the government with their financial stability. Each enrollee accepted responsibility for a bill that the government promised to help pay. As a result, enrollees are collectively on the hook for about $700 million a month. For now, they can freely change or cancel their service contract, but this protection only lasts as long as the ACP does. If the ACP ends, the bill will fall squarely on enrollees' shoulders. 
  4. They currently have internet service. Remarkably, 23,269,550 of our country’s hardest-to-connect households now reliably have internet service thanks to the ACP. The vast majority are already using this connectivity for education, healthcare, and work. As state digital equity programs roll out, the positive impacts of this connectivity will grow even larger. 

The ACP is on course to end on April 30th.4 If it does, we will no longer know that these households have internet service. Instead, all we will know is that internet service is hard, if not impossible, for them to afford.5

The High-Water Mark of ACP Enrollment

23,269,550 was achieved because communities across the country—urban, rural, Democratic, Republican—united around the ACP. 

To highlight each community’s effort, I have estimated final enrollment numbers per congressional district. As you look at these numbers, recall the four things we know about each individual household. And consider the many local organizations that helped make these numbers what they are—libraries, healthcare providers, schools, universities, tribes, churches, public housing, veteran organizations, state and local governments, food pantries, transit providers, non-profits, translators, legal services, families, individuals, and internet service providers.

ACP by Congressional District

What the ACP Has Meant

The ACP is America’s guarantee that opportunity would remain available, no matter a household's financial circumstances. If an enrollee lost their job one day, the ACP meant they could still look for work the next. Their kids could still do their homework from home, and their parents could stay connected to community and care. 

That guarantee may soon be void. In its place will be the certainty that millions of Americans will make painful sacrifices to pay their internet bills. They will buy cheaper food, visit the doctor less, fall behind on rent, and watch their savings shrink. For those who can’t afford internet service, the consequences will be even worse.

The following is a quote from just one member of the ACP’s 23,269,550 households. She is a mother who struggles with chronic illness.

If the ACP program ends, we will have to decrease our internet plan and end my stepson's phone. We already struggle to afford food, electric, medical expenses, gas/fuel, and car repairs. Currently, both my car and my fiance's car have significant issues that we are unable to fix because of our financial situation. I already receive food stamps and Medicaid, but the food stamps are never enough to last the entire month. We have cut a lot of expenses already and having to pay the additional $30 when the ACP program ends will likely create significant financial hardship for us.

Ultimately, we rely on the internet to do a lot of very important things. Without it, each of us would suffer, especially me. Right now, having access to the internet is what gives me the ability to stay connected with the world while I'm unable to work. Without access to the internet, I know my emotional, mental and physical health would suffer greatly, and our financial health would also suffer significantly.

This represents the stakes for one member of one ACP household. It represents the stakes for all members of all 23,269,550 ACP households.

April 30th is less than two months away.

Save the ACP. There are at least 23,269,550 reasons why.


  1. One in six of all U.S. households, not just eligible households. Among eligible households, the ratio is closer to one in two.
  2. Enrollment in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program began the week of May 12, 2021.
  3. These are the income requirements for SNAP and Medicaid, the most common enrollment pathways for the ACP. Individuals and families with incomes up to $30,000 and $60,000, respectively, are eligible for ACP, but they enroll less frequently.
  4. April will be the last month during which the ACP can provide the full $30 benefit. The ACP may still offer a reduced benefit (i.e. less than $30) in May. However, it is not clear if ISPs will still participate. Some have already indicated that they will not.
  5. A recent FCC survey found that, if the ACP ends, over 75% of enrollees would lose service or experience service disruptions.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
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