Congress proposes $7B Affordable Connectivity extension

A group of U.S. senators and representatives introduced on Wednesday legislation that would provide the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) much-needed funding to keep low-income households connected.

The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act is a bipartisan bill that would allocate an additional $7 billion to support the program, which provides most eligible households with a $30 per month subsidy toward fixed or mobile broadband service. The text of the bill has not been published at the time of writing.

Worries that the ACP will run out of money culminated this week when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed it will begin taking steps to wind down the program. Just under $4 billion remains in the funding pot, with the program scheduled to end by April 2024.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel had urged Congress to allocate an additional $6 billion to keep ACP running through the end of 2024 – the same amount the White House requested last fall.

The legislation is sponsored by senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and by representatives Yvette Clarke (NY-09) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01).

Clarke at the end of 2023 hinted plans to introduce a bill that addresses the ACP’s significant funding gap, but did not provide further detail at the time.

“Across the nation, more than 22 million American households already rely on the ACP for internet access,” said Clarke in a statement today. “The bipartisan, bicameral Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act provides a transformative opportunity to bridge the gap of the digital divide for communities of color, urban and rural families, and so many more underserved Americans.”

According to a press release published by Welch’s office, the ACP Extension Act is supported by over 400 organizations, including providers AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Cox, as well as trade groups such as American Civil Liberties Union, Communications Workers of America, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and USTelecom.

The ACP’s enrollment tracker indicates over $17 billion has been used for both the ACP and its predecessor the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program.