Since early 2021, millions of Americans have benefitted from subsidized broadband service.
During the pandemic, online schooling and remote work heightened the importance of internet access. This prompted the launch of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, or EBB, by the Trump administration. It provided a $50 subsidy to 9 million households.
The EEB was later retooled by the Biden administration as the American Connectivity Program, or ACP. It provides a $30 monthly discount on wifi to qualifying low-income families. Currently, 16 million households are enrolled.
With the rise of remote work, for many, broadband access is now a non-discretionary expense.
However, some project that the ACP could be out of money by 2024. Remaining funds from the EBB rolled into the ACP, which, at inception, received $14.2 billion provided by Biden’s infrastructure bill. Only about one-third of eligible households have signed up. Nevertheless, with over 100,000 new enrollees coming in each week, funds are depleting fast.
This means that low-income households, which are already seeing their wallets stretched due to high inflation, may soon take an additional hit to their budgets.
An Alternative Lifeline
While the ACP has been a big help for millions, it isn’t the only option out there to bring wifi costs down for low-income households.
The FCC subsidizes broadband access through a program called Lifeline Support. However, it only provides a $9.25 discount. To qualify for the ACP, households must have income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. With the average cost of basic internet service hovering just over $30, the ACP doesn’t just ease a monthly expense, it eliminates it entirely for many.
Without the ACP, low-income households could face some tough choices as they may be forced to further prioritize line-items on their budgets. However, the program has garnered bipartisan support before and, even in a split Congress, it’s possible that it could still find funding.
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