Some providers will offer low-cost internet even as federal program ends, White House says

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Friday, May 31, 2024 is the official last day of the pandemic-era Affordable Connectivity Program, which has provided up to $30 in discounts on internet bills for eligible families and as much as $75 on qualifying tribal lands. (Photo by Mayur Kakade/Getty Images)
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By Shauneen Miranda, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Washington — With Friday marking the official last day of the pandemic-era Affordable Connectivity Program, the Biden administration is spotlighting commitments from over a dozen internet service providers to offer plans at $30 or less to low-income households through 2024.

This comes as Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the short-term program had to end due to a lack of funding, which both she and President Joe Biden are continuing to urge Congress to restore.

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For over 23 million households, the Affordable Connectivity Program has provided up to $30 in monthly discounts on internet bills for eligible families and as much as $75 a month for those on qualifying tribal lands.

“The (Affordable Connectivity Program) filled an important gap that provider low-income programs, state and local affordability programs, and the Lifeline program cannot fully address,” Rosenworcel wrote in letters to congressional leaders on Thursday.

“Millions of ACP households nationwide, and households that may be eligible but have not yet enrolled, are looking to Congress to provide the funding needed to keep the ACP up and running.”

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Separately, the Lifeline program provides a $9.25 monthly broadband service benefit for eligible households, according to the FCC.

But the commission said this is not an ACP replacement, and that “​​not all ACP households will qualify for Lifeline, and by statute, many ACP providers are not eligible to participate in the Lifeline program.”

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Rosenworcel has sent monthly letters to congressional leaders outlining the need for additional funding to keep the low-cost internet program running.

Her additional letters on Thursday went to the chairs and ranking members of House and Senate appropriations panels, including Reps. David Joyce of Ohio and Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.

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Rosenworcel also sent another round of letters to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Ted Cruz of Texas, and the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

In her most recent letter, Rosenworcel said it was “regrettable” that the FCC must end the “most successful broadband affordability program in our Nation’s history.”

She highlighted some of the possible impacts of the program ending for many military families and millions of households with school-aged children enrolled in the program.

Additionally, Rosenworcel said “the end of ACP will also impact approximately 3.4 million rural households and over 300,000 households in Tribal areas.”

Meanwhile, the administration said over a dozen providers committed to offering “their current ACP subscribers and other eligible households a high-speed internet plan for $30 per month or less, with no fees and data caps, until the end of 2024.”

The providers include: Allo Fiber; Altafiber (and Hawaiian Telcom); Astound Broadband; AT&T; Comcast; Cox; IdeaTek; Mediacom; MLGC; Optimum; Spectrum (Charter Communications); Starry; Verizon; and Vermont Telephone Company, per the administration, which noted that, together, the providers cover up to 10 million households enrolled in the program.

In October, Biden asked Congress for $6 billion in a supplemental funding request to keep the ACP funding running through the end of 2024.

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