Benjamin Payne, GPB News
White House officials are warning that a federal subsidy which helps low-income households afford home internet access will expire at the end of April, unless Congress authorizes more funding.
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides monthly discounts of $30 to 698,593 Georgia households — roughly 1 in 6 households in the state. It is the successor to a similar program which began during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this point, more funding is urgently needed to keep the ACP in place, so that it can continue to support the households that rely on it and reach others that may be on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in a letter Monday to lawmakers.
“If Congress does not provide additional funding for the ACP in the near future, millions of households will lose the ACP benefit that they use to afford internet service,” she continued, adding that about 1,700 internet service providers would also be impacted.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced bills Wednesday in the U.S. House and Senate that would provide $7 billion of funding to extend the ACP — $1 billion more than the White House had asked for in its request last fall to fund the ACP through the end of 2024.
“ACP doesn’t just get families online for the first time — it helps them stay online,” Stephen Benjamin, an advisor to President Joe Biden, said to reporters Tuesday. “That kind of stability is critical for our nation’s students who need a reliable connection to do their homework, for seniors on a fixed income and for entrepreneurs trying to start a business from home.”
Southwest Georgia has the state’s highest participation in the program; there, in the 2nd Congressional District, 1 in 3 households receives ACP assistance.
In addition to monthly assistance on home internet service, the program offers a one-time discount of $100 to eligible households for the purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.
This story comes to the Columbus News through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.