New bill would extend FCC’s popular Affordable Connectivity Program

Since the ACP began in late 2021, more than 22.5 million households in the U.S. have taken advantage of its $30 monthly discount for internet service.
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Members of Congress on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation that would add a $7 billion extension to the Affordable Connectivity Program, a subsidy program administered by the Federal Communications Commission designed to ensure the availability of affordable, high-speed internet to households across the country. 

Since the ACP was implemented in late 2021, more than 22.5 million households have used the program’s $30 monthly discount for internet service. Without the extension, the ACP’s funding is set to expire in April. 

“Access to high-speed internet isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity,” said Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont, who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee and chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Rural Development and Energy Subcommittee. “We’re going to keep working across the aisle and across the Capitol to deliver on this area of common ground agreement.” 

Those living on tribal lands can qualify for up to a $75 monthly discount through ACP. To date, the program has been used by more than 800,000 veterans, one million college students, 3.1 million families with a K-12 student receiving free or reduced-price lunch and 5 million seniors, according to a press release from Welch’s office


ACP is widely used, but some states have benefitted more than others. According to BroadbandNow, a website that tracks internet speeds and coverage, Mississippi ranks 45th among states when it comes to internet coverage, speed and availability with 87.6% of homes having access to wired or fixed wireless broadband. Nearly 240,000 of Mississippi households — nearly 20% — are enrolled in the ACP, saving those residents about $6.9 million each month.

In October, the Biden-Harris Administration called on Congress to extend the ACP’s funding. The ACP Extension Act is also supported by more than 400 organizations, including AARP, AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Communications Workers of America and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The internet is no longer optional–it’s essential,” Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the ACLU, said in a press release. “Households who struggle to afford broadband shouldn’t have to sacrifice other necessities to stay connected. The Affordable Connectivity Program has proved to be so necessary that it is facing a funding cliff.” 

The ACLU noted in its press release that many communities living without broadband access are disproportionately non-white, low income or rural, “making this not only an issue of getting online, but progressing toward systematic equality and equity.”

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