FCC Chief Says More Than 20 Percent of Affordable Connectivity Signups are New

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel used USAC data to highlight the high rate of new ACP signups.

FCC Chief Says More Than 20 Percent of Affordable Connectivity Signups are New
Photo of Sen. J.D. Vance from his office

WASHINGTON, January 23, 2024 – In the face of conservative opposition, the head of the Federal Communications Commission touted to Republicans the number of fresh broadband sign-ups as a result of the discounts offered by the Affordable Connectivity Program, as she presses Congress to renew funding for the subsidy program.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel replied to Republicans on January 5, 2024, disputing the lawmakers’ criticisms of December 15. Rosenworcel said only 20 to 22 percent of ACP participants did not have internet access prior to the implementation of the program. She cited data from the agency’s fund administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company. 

In other words, Rosenworcel is arguing, the program is helping Americans get connected.

The program, which provides a $30- and $75-per month subsidy for eligible Americans, is expected to run out of its $14.2 billion allotment in April 2024, spurring a winding-down process if Congress does not inject new funds.

Rosenworcel has warned that the collapse of the program would mean the 25 million households that have registered with the program would not have broadband. 

She also lauded the pace of the program’s success in generating new enrollments, pointing to an average per month increase in broadband adoption of 3.8 percent since the program’s inception. The initiative also enrolled 45 percent of the eligible pool of 48.6 million eligible homes, according to the letter. 

Rosenworcel also touted the ACP’s “first-of-its-kind” outreach grant program, boosting broadband access to low-income and disadvantaged communities, increasing program enrollment by around 13 million households. 

Bipartisan group of lawmakers are pressing for ACP renewal

The Affordable Connectivity Program started in 2021 as part of Congress’ Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, assisting more than 22 million homes in connecting with the internet so far. 

On January 9, a set of bipartisan lawmakers led by Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance and Democratic Vermont Sen. Peter Welch unveiled a bill that would allocate $7 billion in additional funding to the ACP program, underlining the importance of expanding internet access to rural and historically underserved communities. 

The ACP’s predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit — a short-term program to give broadband grants to low-income households— was plagued by fraud issues. Providers allegedly enrolled ineligible households in the program under the false claim they had children enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision school. 

Telecom analyst Blair Levin of NewStreet Research suggests that Republicans may not be eager to continue funding the program, citing broader pushes to pair back government spending. 

“The House Republicans attempting to demonstrate that they are cutting back on government spending makes re-funding the ACP very difficult,” Levin wrote in a January 8 note. “It is unlikely the House Republican leadership will allow the bill to go to the floor.”

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