Vets Were There for U.S., Let's Make Sure ACP Is There for Vets

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Digital Beat

Vets Were There for U.S., Let's Make Sure ACP Is There for Vets

On November 11 each year, we are asked to recognize that our military and veteran families answer our Nation’s call to duty—and we recommit to doing right by their service and sacrifice. This year that recommitment must include ensuring that our veterans don't fall onto the wrong side of the digital divide. This year, our recommitment to veterans must include a recommitment to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Over 800,000 households with veterans participate in the ACP, which provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. For these veterans, ACP is a lifeline—a literal lifeline. 

In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that 15 percent of veteran households did not have an internet connection. Veterans with the lowest incomes are most likely to go without broadband at home, indicating that price is a significant barrier to adoption.

Under President Donald Trump, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC rolled out the Emergency Broadband Benefit. During the pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs exponentially increased telehealth and virtual care, including VA Video Connect, to deliver healthcare services to veteran patients. And between January 2020 and January 2021, the number of telehealth appointments offered by the Department increased by 1,831 percent.

Recognizing the importance of connecting veterans and other vulnerable people to the internet, Congress transformed the Emergency Broadband Benefit into the ACP through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The ACP became a long-term commitment that the FCC would help connect veterans and others and keep them connected to telehealth services, educational opportunities, and workforce development programs. 

But the ACP is running out of funding, meaning over 800,000 veterans could soon lose internet service or face higher monthly bills. President Joe Biden has proposed to fully fund ACP through 2024, but Congress has not yet acted. 

We can't let this happen.

Governor Jim Justice (R-WV) says, “By maximizing the federal government’s new Affordable Connectivity Program, we have an opportunity to get eligible households in our state needed help to pay for internet." He's right.

Governor Kate Ivy (R-AL) said, “The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a great resource for Alabamians to get help paying for internet and devices and will go a long way helping our state eliminate coverage gaps.”  She’s right, too.

For 50 years, the U.S. has relied on our all-volunteer military. For those who raised their hands and said, "I'll go," we owe more than parades and Thank Yous; we need to keep our promises. This Veterans Day, we must recommit to veterans and to the ACP that keeps them connected.

Also see: Why are Veterans a "Covered Population"?

Adrianne B. Furniss is the Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

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
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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By Adrianne B. Furniss.