ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – As we begin a new year and Congress starts laying out its plans for the future, the American Consumer Institute strongly recommends that these plans include passing a temporary or permanent extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
First created in December 2021 as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, this important program provides disadvantaged households with a discount on broadband services that is good for up to $30 per month, or $75 per month for those residing on tribal lands. In addition, households may receive a one-time discount of up to $100 that can be used to purchase equipment like a laptop, tablet, or other electronic device. Households also have the freedom to choose the broadband service that best fits their needs and switch between providers, allowing them a unique degree of flexibility.
Unsurprisingly, the ACP is extremely popular, with a large majority of Americans of all political backgrounds expressing a strong desire for the program to continue. To date, 22.5 million households have enrolled in the program, with more joining every day. Many of these households are veterans, rural Americans, and low-income families living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, the ACP is in imminent danger of exhausting all funding as soon as April of this year. As of this month, less than $4 billion of the original $14.2 billion in appropriations remains available for distribution. Should funding run out, the results could be catastrophic.
Tens of millions of Americans could lose broadband access. As the American Consumer Institute has consistently noted, the ACP plays an important role in helping close the digital divide by providing families with the financial assistance they need to participate in the modern economy.
Today, nearly every facet of American daily life requires a broadband connection. For example, broadband access allows Americans to work remotely, attend school online, participate in telehealth visits, and schedule bill payments. Broadband also allows Americans to connect with family and friends through social media, utilize ride-sharing services for transportation, and even have groceries delivered to their homes.
Research suggests that broadband access is also associated with a wide range of economic benefits including “economic growth, higher incomes, and lower unemployment.” This is because broadband makes it easier to search for and apply for jobs and for companies to hire employees who are digitally literate and create value for the company. For all these reasons, the ACP serves as a critical lifeline to disadvantaged Americans who may otherwise be unable to afford an online connection. As Steve Forbes recently put it, the ACP is a “hand-up into today’s modern, digital economy.”
The ACP also generates significant cost savings for taxpayers since the program encourages self-sufficiency and reduces the need for the government to spend money on other, less efficient, federal aid programs that are not directly accountable to Congress. In other words, the program’s economic benefits far outweigh its cost.
Should Congress decide additional cost savings are necessary, simple changes can be made to eligibility requirements. For instance, income eligibility can be adjusted from 200 percent of the poverty line to a lower percent, putting it in line with other aid programs like SNAP. Additional adjustments can be made as needed.
What Congress should not do is allow the ACP to expire. Millions of Americans depend on this valuable program for basic connectivity, and they deserve to know that it will be around for the foreseeable future. The American Consumer Institute urges Congress to do the right thing and extend the ACP before it’s too late. For more information about the ACP and why it should be saved, visit: ACPConnects.com.