FCC Unveils Plans to Phase Out Affordable Connectivity Program

Despite efforts to secure additional funding, the FCC is initiating steps to cease new enrollments and establish an official end-date.

FCC Unveils Plans to Phase Out Affordable Connectivity Program
Photo of Jessica Rosenworcel from University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

WASHINGTON, January 9, 2024 – The Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced its gradual phase-out plan for the Affordable Connectivity Program, intending to formally establish the program’s end date should congressional efforts to sustain it remain absent.

The FCC will begin efforts this week to set a date on when new program enrollment will cease.

Subsequently, the commission will embark on establishing the program’s official end date, projected for April. This determination aligns with the anticipated depletion of the initial $14.2 billion in ACP funds based on current enrollment.

The FCC, in a letter to Congress dated Monday, proposed next steps to allow time to inform participating households, providers, and stakeholders of forthcoming changes. 

The ACP assists at least 23 million American households in maintaining their monthly internet subscription by providing a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service and up to $75 per month for eligible households in high-cost areas and on tribal lands.

The letter penned by FCC Chief Jessica Rosenworcel highlighted the program’s jeopardy and iterated the need for Congress to urgently allocate $6 billion in funding to secure the program’s continuity. 

The FCC said it remains committed to supporting congressional efforts aimed at securing the necessary funding to sustain and expand the ACP, but is taking necessary steps to ensure ACP participants are well-informed of the effects of the program’s end.

The FCC letter raises concerns that ending the ACP could undermine the success of $42.5 billion in rural broadband network deployments subsidized by the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment program, on account of rural households enrolling in the ACP at a higher rate than their urban counterparts.

“In summary, the ACP is in jeopardy and, absent additional funding, we could lose the significant progress this program has made towards closing the digital divide,” Rosenworcel put forth. “The commission stands ready to assist Congress with any efforts to fully fund the ACP into the future.”

There were no successful efforts to introduce legislation to extend program funding during the 118th Congress, though last year saw numerous appeals to sustain the program. 

President Joe Biden submitted a formal request in October to Congress for an additional $6 billion to fund the ACP until the end of 2024. 

Additional public support for the program was expressed by 45 bipartisan members of Congress advocating for the extension of ACP in August, along with 26 governors urging Senate leaders to maintain funding the program last November.

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