Congress lets broadband funding run out, ending $30 low-income discounts

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel made a final plea to Congress, asking for money to continue a broadband-affordability program that gave out its last round of $30 discounts to people with low incomes in April. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has lowered monthly Internet bills for people who qualify for benefits, but Congress allowed funding to run out. People may receive up to $14 in May if their ISP opted into offering a partial discount during the program's final month.

What Did NTIA's Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Accomplish in 2023?

Congress included the ACCESS BROADBAND Act in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and established the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). On April 30, OICG released its annual report detailing the office's work for 2023. OICG administers broadband programs created by both the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Four interconnected core pillars drive OICG’s initiatives, strategy, and key accomplishments:

Federal Aviation Administration bill faces Senate holdup over expiring affordable internet program

At least two senators are demanding that a program subsidizing high-speed internet for lower-income families be extended as part of the airline safety bill making its way through the Senate. Sen J.D.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Final Update to Members of Congress Regarding the Affordable Connectivity Program

On May 1, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote to Congressional leaders with a final update on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). April was the last month of full funding for the program, which will fully exhaust during May without additional funding from Congress. "If additional funding is not promptly appropriated, the one in six households nationwide that rely on this program will face rising bills and increasing disconnection.

Things are getting tight for US telecom network operators

Slowing growth in the market for telecommunications services appears to be putting additional pressure on network operators in the US. Mergers and acquisitions are on the rise. Layoffs appear to be accelerating.

Reform the ACP

On May 2, the Senate will hold a hearing on “The Future of Broadband Affordability.” The Affordability Connectivity Program (ACP) that provides subsidies for more than 20 million low-income households will expire in May. Without the extension, these families will see the cost of the internet service increase by up to $30 per month and prompt some families to drop internet service altogether.

Sen Fetterman Introduces Bill to Make Broadband Internet Program Permanent

Sen John Fetterman (D-PA) introduced the Promoting Affordable Connectivity Act which would sustainably fund the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) by removing it from the appropriations process and incorporating it into Universal Service Fund (USF) distribution. The ACP has provided discounts on internet service to more than 23 million households—including over 700,000 in Pennsylvania—that could not otherwise afford it.

Analysis: Low-income Americans will take a $20 billion hit when the Affordable Connectivity Program expires

More than 23 million low-income American households will soon see a new line item in monthly expense statements: prohibitively expensive internet bills. For some, the new cost will eat into other essential areas of their budget—for others, it will mean going without the internet altogether. While the federal price tag for monthly internet subsidies under the Affordable Connectivity Program comes to $8.4 billion annually, our research indicates that, for low-income communities, the economic impact of losing the ACP will be more than twice that.

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Continues to Call on Congressional Republicans and Internet Service Providers to Keep Americans Connected as the Affordable Connectivity Program Enters Final Month

May 1 begins the final month that Affordable Connectivity Program households will receive any benefit on their internet bills. Without Congressional action to extend funding for the program, millions of Americans will see their internet bills go up or lose internet access at the end of this month.

The Affordable Connectivity Program Kept Them Online. What Now?

A group of bipartisan US senators and representatives have called for an additional $7 billion that would extend the Affordable Connectivity Program through the end of 2024. The White House has expressed support, but the proposal hasn’t yet advanced in Congress. In the meantime, some ISPs are offering short-term subsidies and new discount plans to try to support low-income households that were previously relying on ACP.  First implemented in 2021, the ACP was part of a massive, $1.2 trillion Biden administration deal called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.