The Uncertain Future of America's Affordable Connectivity Program
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President Joe Biden has a vision for affordable internet across America by 2030. However, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) - a cornerstone of this plan - might soon be without funding.
While the program promises $30 to $75 monthly internet subsidies for eligible low-income households, an Associated Press study reveals that under 40% of those households have benefited. Despite its underutilization, its value is undeniable. Kimberlyn Barton-Reyes, a paraplegic and visually impaired individual from Austin, Texas, depends on it. For her, the internet isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.
However, ACP's $14.2 billion funding is predicted to deplete by mid-2024, jeopardizing affordable internet access for millions and potentially derailing Biden's connectivity goals. Drew Garner from Common Sense Media praises the ACP, deeming it an unprecedented tool for broadband affordability.
With the program's origin in pandemic-era relief, its beneficiaries have grown from 9 million households at the start to about 20.4 million today. Advocates are concerned that letting it lapse could shatter the consumer-ISP trust just as the nation gears up to widen internet access.
Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture Secretary, endorses the ACP's achievements, suggesting its success might prompt Congress to continue its funding. Joe Kane of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation warns against a potential breakdown in closing the digital divide if ACP's permanency isn't ensured.
Biden's proposed $42.5 billion broadband distribution aims to provide every U.S. establishment with internet. However, if ACP concludes, it could dissuade internet service providers (ISPs) from bidding on these projects.
Both political parties and the White House champion the ACP. Its benefits transcend political lines, aiding approximately equal numbers of households in both Democratic and Republican districts.
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