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Digital Inclusion

Amina Fazlullah: How Successful Is the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The ACP has connected millions of families and communities to high-speed internet, and it needs to be extended.



The author of this Expert Opinion is Amina Fazlullah, senior director of equity policy at Common Sense

Across the country, states are making critical decisions about how to leverage $80 billion in federal broadband infrastructure funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act  and the American Rescue Plan. With the right planning, these funds could ensure that high-speed internet service will finally reach every single home and business in the country, which has been one of Common Sense Media’s top priorities for years.

However, careful planning and community outreach are essential to using these funds effectively, as is the Affordable Connectivity Program—the most successful program the country has ever enacted to help struggling families afford high-speed internet.

We know that for a lower-income family in the digital divide, just having access to a broadband network is not enough to ensure that they can subscribe. The ACP is an essential tool because it addresses the number one reason people aren’t online—they’re unable to afford internet service. In fact, offline households are often only able to pay $10, yet the median cost of an internet plan is $74.99 per month.

The ACP helps lower-income households by subsidizing the cost of an internet service plan as well as devices, like laptops or tablets. In fact, the program is overwhelmingly popular, and uptake is exceeding even the highest expectations.

Analysis of Affordable Connectivity Fund shows its popularity among Democrats, Republicans and independents

Our analysis shows it’s popular in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. It’s popular with Democrats, Republicans, and independents. In short, the ACP is helping people everywhere, no matter where they live or how they vote.

Here are five facts about the impact the ACP is having on families across the country:

  • Roughly 50 million households qualify for the subsidy. That’s nearly 40% of the country.
  • Over 18.5 million households are currently enrolled. That’s more than 14% of the country.
  • In 2023, ACP enrollment grew by over half a million every month, or at a rate of 3.5% per month.
  • Majorities in both parties support the ACP: Sixty-four percent of Republicans and 95% of Democrats.
  • The ACP’s success is bipartisan. Forty-six percent of enrollees live in Republican congressional districts, and 50% live in Democratic congressional districts.

The benefit of the ACP also reaches well beyond eligible households. Our research found that connecting families has a significant positive impact on education, health care, government services, and even workforce development. When more households are connected to high-speed internet, outcomes can improve in each of these sectors. For example, when students remain unconnected, our research found an estimated loss of $33 billion dollars in GDP annually. By connecting students, the country could avoid this loss.

A recent analysis by Cigna noted that telemedicine access lowered the cost of care by up to $141 per visit. The same analysis found that telemedicine increased the number of entry points into the health care system as well as improved outcomes. With more families connected, telemedicine could be an option for more people, both patients and providers. Connectivity also increases employment rates and earnings, creating more than $2,200 in economic benefit for lower-income households.

Both new and established providers need certainty that ACP will remain in place as they decide whether to participate in the biggest new broadband infrastructure program, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, and determine how ambitious they can be in their proposals.

Our recent analysis found that the existence of ACP led to an estimated 25% reduction in the per household subsidy needed to incentivize providers in rural areas. ACP is the linchpin that will turn the IIJA’s massive once-in-a-generation investment in broadband from a program that is just about building networks to one that is helping our most vulnerable communities connect to the benefits of the digital economy.

At Common Sense, we have worked hard to get to where we are today, and we are determined to see this job through. To close the digital divide once and for all, we need to continue funding a robust ACP.

Amina Fazlullah is the Senior Director Equity Policy at Common Sense. Her work focuses on expanding access to technology and digital well-being advocacy. Prior to joining Common Sense, Amina was a Tech Policy Fellow at Mozilla, where she worked to promote broadband connectivity in underserved communities around the world. Amina has also worked with the Benton Foundation, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, and at the Federal Communications Commission. This piece was published on Common Sense on June 20, 2023, and is reprinted with permission.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

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Digital Inclusion

Broadband Association Argues Providers Not Engaged in Rollout Discrimination

Trade group says telecoms are not discriminating when they don’t build in financially difficult areas.



Image of redlining from historic map of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, from PBS.

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2023 – Broadband association US Telecom sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission last week saying internet service providers don’t build in certain areas because it is financially difficult, not because they are being discriminatory.

The FCC proposed two definitions of digital discrimination in December 2022: The first definition includes practices that, absent technological or economic constraints, produce differential outcomes for individuals based a series of protected characteristics, including income, race, and religion. The second definition is similar but adds discriminatory intent as a necessary factor.

“To make business determinations regarding capital allocation, an ISP must consider a host of commercially important factors, none of which involve discrimination,” said the September 12 letter from USTelecom, which represents providers including AT&T, Verizon, Lumen, Brightspeed, and Altafiber.

“As the Commission has consistently recognized, such deployment is extremely capital-intensive…This deployment process is therefore subject to important constraints related to technical and economic feasibility” added the letter.

US Telecom explained that ISPs’ will choose to invest where they expect to see a return on the time and money they put into building broadband.

The association added that factors like population density, brand reputation, competition and the availability of the providers’ other services all go into deciding where broadband gets deployed.

“The starting point of the Commission’s approach to feasibility should be a realistic acknowledgement that all ISPs must prioritize their resources, even those that invest aggressively in deployment,” added the letter.

The association also highlighted the fact that it hopes to see as little government intervention in broadband deployment activity as possible, a concern that has been echoed by lobbyists before.

“Rather than attempting to use Section 60506 to justify taking extra-statutory intrusive actions that could paradoxically undermine ongoing broadband investment, the Commission must enable ISPs to make decisions based on their own consideration of the kinds of feasibility factors discussed above” read the letter.

Section 60506 of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act says that the FCC may implement new policies to ensure equal access to broadband.

The FCC is also looking to develop guidelines for handling digital discrimination complaints filed against broadband providers.

USTelecom said that ISPs should be allowed to demonstrate financial and logistical concerns as a rebuttal to those claims, in addition to disclosing other reasons for directing investment elsewhere to demonstrate non-discriminatory practice.

Reasons for investment elsewhere would include rough terrain, low-population density, MTE owners not consenting to deployment, zoning restrictions, or historical preservation review.

“To aid in the success of the Infrastructure Act and facilitate equal access, the Commission must continue to foster an environment conducive to ISP investment in the high-speed broadband infrastructure that Congress rightly views as central to our connected future,” concluded the letter.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC and HUD Partner to Promote Internet Subsidies for Housing Assistance Recipients

The effort is aimed at raising awareness about federal internet subsidies among housing assistance recipients.



Photo of Marcia L. Fudge, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development

WASHINGTON, August 18, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Monday a partnership to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program to people receiving federal housing assistance.

The promotion efforts will include promoting the FCC program at public housing properties, joint enrollment events, and increased collaboration on messaging campaigns.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge touted the agency’s partnership with the FCC at a community event in Seattle, Washington, and encouraged residents to sign up.

The announcement comes a month after the launch of White House’s “Online for All” campaign, an effort to raise nationwide awareness of the ACP.

Part of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the ACP monthly discounts on internet service of between $30 for low-income American and $75 for Tribal residents.

The $14 billion program is serving more than 20 million households as of August 14, roughly a quarter of whom had no internet access at all prior to receiving ACP benefits.

A monitoring tool developed by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a community advocacy group, estimates that $6.3 billion in ACP funds have been used up.

The remaining $7.7 billion is expected to dry up in 2024. Lawmakers have called for funding increases, citing the racial divide in internet access – 71% of Black households and 65% of hispanic households have broadband access, compared to 80% of white households –  that could worsen in the absence of ACP discounts.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, released in July a report calling for Congress to eliminate old broadband subsidies that have been rendered redundant by the $42.5 billion BEAD program and divert the funds to the ACP.

“Public energy and time in this space would be much better served fine-tuning and scaling digital inclusion efforts than being obligated to lobby for a program whose continuation should be a no-brainer,” wrote Joe Kane, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the ITIF and author of the report.

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Digital Inclusion

Affordable Connectivity Program Tools Show One in Four Applicants Newbies

Data reveal the program’s benefit is reaching the lowest income households



Screenshot of Katherine Aquino during the webinar

WASHINGTON, August 18, 2023 – Roughly a quarter of applicants to the Affordable Connectivity Program did not previously have internet connection at home, said panelists at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s webinar on August 11.

Describing the statistic as a “surprising” revelation, Katherine Aquino, a data analyst at the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway, drew attention to her organization’s data tool, which tracks participation in the ACP – a program designed to provide monthly internet bill discounts of $30 and $75 to low-income Americans.

John Horrigan, senior fellow at the nonprofit Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, nodded to the data, adding that Benton’s ACP Enrollment Performance Tool also found the same implication.

The tool indicates a positive association between poverty level and ACP enrollment, meaning the poorest zip codes have some of the highest ACP participation rates, he explained.

“This should be good news for policy makers,” added Horrigan. “It means the benefit is reaching the target population the policymakers have in mind.”

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday that about 20 million households have enrolled in the ACP, which accounts for nearly half of the total eligible households. The agency also emphasized its ongoing outreach efforts to encourage a higher number of registrations for the program.

However, an enrollment uptake does not necessarily translate to good news.

Another ACP data monitoring tool developed by the advocacy group Institute for Local Self-Reliance paints a somewhat grim picture, estimating that as of August 2023, only approximately $6.3 billion in ACP funds remain out of the initially allocated $14 billion. 

Experts have also predicted the ACP will run out of funding in early 2024, depending on how fast new households would sign up for the program.

“There’s still maybe 63% of the ACP eligible households that are still not benefiting from a potentially $360 federal benefit that they could be receiving,” said Aquino.

Meanwhile, ACP’s future seems to hang in the balance as numerous calls for funding replenishment have met with a lack of response from the halls of Congress.

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