Consumers are the turbines of America’s economic engine. With internet access, consumers can find job opportunities, access medical care, complete advanced education, work remotely, and so much more.

On May 23, the American Consumer Institute hosted, “The Economic Benefits of the Affordable Connectivity Program,” an event on the downstream effects of internet connectivity and how the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a model for success. You can watch a replay of the event here.

The ACP, funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, provides $30/mo. ($75/mo. in tribal areas) to qualifying households, including a $100 one-time benefit toward purchasing an electronic device used to connect to the internet. Thus far, over 18 million households have enrolled – 18 million households now able to be connected and participate in the digital marketplace.

ACI gathered three experts who have written and spoken extensively on the importance of the program. Former FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly kicked off the event building on his recent piece on the conservative case for the ACP. O’Rielly concluded, “we talk about how to provide a hand up and not a handout. I think that’s exactly what this program does and it deserves funding.”

Strand Consult’s Roslyn Layton discussed the success of the program and its impact on the digital marketplace. Layton stated, “almost 20 million new households getting online, that’s a staggering amount of new value into the economy.” Through this newfound affordable connectivity, Americans can develop digital literacy skills, engage with telehealth, or even start a business. The ACP opens a door to a range of services that can help elevate people’s lives.

In fact, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “universal access to high-quality home internet service (hereafter, ‘universal access’) would raise earnings-weighted productivity in the postpandemic economy by 1.1%.” NBER recognizes that a boost of just 1.1% in labor productivity, (“given an aggregate output elasticity with respect to labor services of two-thirds”) “implies flow GDP gains of $160 billion per year.”

Lastly, Free State Foundation’s Randy May echoed his peers’ support for the safety net program, as he has previously pledged his support for the ACP. However, May delivered an additional point that there may need to be some adjustments made to continue to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.

The ACP has proven to be enormously popular, as millions of Americans who could not previously afford broadband are now online, working, learning, obtaining healthcare and more. Experts agree that this program sets itself apart from previous government subsidies – and needs to be extended, especially as funding rapidly dwindles.

It is time policymakers seriously consider next steps to establish a long term or permanent funding mechanism for this program – as we all know, internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.