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Program that helps lower low-income American internet bills is about to run out of funds for good

The ACP is about to lose its funding for good, and there seems to be little chance of a rescue in time.

Published onMay 23, 2024

acp government program
  • ACP is set to run out of funds on May 31. There are several attempts to extend the program’s funding.
  • Unfortunately, politics are mostly in the way, making it very unlikely any bill will save it in time.
  • If the program ends, millions of Americans will have to find an alternative or look for a cheaper ISP/carrier plan.

It’s no secret that the US is known for having much higher ISP and carrier service pricing compared to most other countries, but the situation is about to get worse for millions of Americans. We wrote back in January that millions of Americans might soon have to pay more for internet access as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was set to expire. Since then, the program has become unavailable to new members, and now it’s on the verge of running out of funds completely. On May 31, funds will run dry, and the program will end for good. Unfortunately, it’s looking less and less likely that anyone will come to the rescue.

The ACP program allowed qualifying low-income households to apply for a $30 credit that could be used to lower the cost of either their local ISP or their phone provider. This is an issue both sides support on paper, but it all comes down to semantics. The Republicans and Democrats have been unable to see eye to eye on the terms, as Republicans weren’t happy with the way the original ACP program handled the reporting of information on those in the program.

As a result, there are plenty of attempts to save the ACP, but it’s looking unlikely that any of them will pass in time.

There are attempts to save the program, but they are looking bleak

Republican Rep. Brandon Williams recently proposed a new bill that would allocate the $6 billion needed to support the ACP long-term by amending the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024. Essentially, it would shuffle funding around so taxpayers wouldn’t have to take on the burden. It also includes adds measures to combat fraud and has stricter rules that could see some current members lose access, though the bill would give them 180 days of continued access. The bill’s full text isn’t even out yet, and with just days left until the deadline, it’s likely this one won’t make it through either.

Likewise, Republican Senator Ted Cruz suggested that the ACP be reduced to just $10 a month for urban areas, where the internet is typically cheaper. This is something that Democrats are also unlikely to support. Speaking of the Democrats, they also have a few plans in the works, including Senator Maria Cantwell’s proposal that aims to get the ACP funded through spectrum legislation. This bill has already been delayed twice.

That’s just a small sampling of what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s possible one of these programs could pull through at the last minute, but it’s very likely this won’t happen.

As for what is likely to happen next if the ACP program loses funding? It will likely be disbanded, and consumers will be directed to other programs like Lifeline Assistance. It’s also very possible that a new bill will eventually take hold that brings back the ACP or introduces a new similar program. For now, it’s a mess of a situation no matter how you look at it. For those directly impacted, you’ll likely have to choose between going to a cheaper ISP or carrier plan or looking for additional assistance through independent, state, or local programs where applicable.

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