.ISPs Pick Up Slack

Affordable Connectivity Act provided low-cost internet services to households

The Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program that provides internet access to low-income families, has ended after Congress failed to reach an agreement to keep funding it. Over 23 million households will no longer receive federal subsidies for cheap internet access. 

 In Santa Cruz County, out of 40,454 households eligible for the benefit, 11,322 are enrolled.

However, numerous internet service providers have committed to continuing to offer low-cost plans for the rest of 2024.

The program provided up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households, and up to $75 for eligible households on tribal lands. The end of the ACP means uncertainty for low-income students needing to stay connected to the internet, some of whom had to camp outside businesses to do their school work during the pandemic.

The ACP was created in 2021, when Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which allocated $14.2 billion for the Federal Communications Commission to create a program to help bridge the “digital divide.” 

After the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, schools switched to remote learning, which highlighted disparities in internet access for low-income families.

In January, elected officials across the U.S. sent a letter to Congress raising the alarm over the imminent end of the ACP and urged them to act. In a Jan. 16 letter to Congress, the U.S. Council of Mayors urged senators and representatives to continue funding the ACP.

“Having quality and affordable broadband has become essential in America,” says the letter. “High-speed internet is a necessity for almost every American, connecting people to educational opportunities, telemedicine, and of course, opportunities for work and entrepreneurship.”

But in February, the program stopped accepting new applications and enrollments. Households that were already approved and enrolled would continue to receive the federal subsidy only until the funding dried up. After months of uncertainty, the Biden administration put out a statement on May 31 announcing the official end of the program.

“Today […] is the final day that households will receive any benefit from the Affordable Connectivity Program on their internet bills. Without Congressional action to extend funding for the program, millions of households are now at risk of losing their internet connections. President Biden is once again calling on Congress to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, so tens of millions of Americans can continue to access this essential benefit,” the statement said.

The release pointed to the commitment of over a dozen ISP’s as a safety net for households in the absence of a federal program. Among these companies are AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Spectrum and Verizon.


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