Most Democratic Senators Want Congress to Make ACP Renewal 'Must Pass' Legislation

Most Democratic senators support Affordable Connectivity Program extension, plus 'Rip and Replace' funding.

Most Democratic Senators Want Congress to Make ACP Renewal  'Must Pass' Legislation
Photo of Sen. John Fetterman from January 2019, as Lt. Gov. of Pennsylvania.

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2024 – Thirty three Democratic and Independent Senators on Friday co-signed a letter urging Senate and House leaders to use “must-pass” budget legislation to include an extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The letter urges Congressional leaders to support bipartisan legislation to save the ACP from expiration when funds are expected to be exhausted next month. The letter argued that the program is necessary to close the connectivity gap between Americans. 

Notable signatories include Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California.

Republican J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, is already co-sponsor of a bi-partisan and bi-cameral measure to support an extension of the ACP with $7 billion in funding.

“We write to urge you to take immediate action to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program and the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program,” read the letter. The latter program, often called the “rip and replace” program, funds internet service providers who are replacing Chinese telecommunications equipment, 

“Both of these programs are vital for closing the digital divide, by making connectivity affordable to millions of working families and ensuring providers are able to continue serving rural communities,” said the senators. 

“Congress must leverage upcoming must-pass legislation to invest in these key programs and ensure that families across the country are not left without access to affordable high-speed internet,” they said. 

The letter praised the ACP’s success – calling it “an unmatched success” – in connecting underprivileged Americans to broadband and thereby opening more opportunities for employment and education. 

The letter also argued that the ACP leads to a reduction of spending on rural broadband, citing a study that alleged universal connectivity yields benefits in education, healthcare, and employment.  

“A 2022 study found that the ACP reduces costs to deploy broadband in rural areas by 25 percent per household. A lapse in ACP funding will therefore limit the positive impact of Congress’ historic $42 billion investment in connecting every unserved American under the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment Program,” the letter states. 

“Estimated coverage cuts would be catastrophic for communities across our nation – we cannot let insufficient funds for this effort to widen the digital divide in rural America,” the letter argues. 

The Senators assert they are willing to work with the FCC, “in a bipartisan way to stave off the funding shortfalls for both of these critical initiatives, including how to pay for new investments in each.” 

The ACP is expected to wind down completely in April without an additional infusion of cash from the federal government. The $42 billion investment issued $30 and $75 broadband grants for low-income and tribal households, respectively. Republicans have been skeptical of the program’s necessity, arguing that many ACP beneficiaries had internet access prior to the program’s inception. ACP advocates argue that the program is necessary to ensure disadvantaged Americans have access to quality broadband. 

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