The FCC expects to begin taking steps this week to wind down the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) because funding is only sufficient to keep the program going through April, said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel in a letter to key federal legislators today.
Rosenworcel made it clear that she would prefer not to have to take this step. As she put it, the program helps nearly 23 million U.S. households “get online and stay online so that they have the high-speed internet service they need to fully participate in modern life.”
According to a research note from New Street Research Policy Advisor Blair Levin, a bipartisan Affordable Connectivity Program Extension bill is expected to be introduced on Wednesday.
Rosenworcel reminded the letter recipients that President Biden late last year urged the Senate and Congress to allocate an additional $6 billion to the ACP to extend the program through the end of the year. She noted, though, that this hasn’t happened yet.
The ACP pays $30 toward the cost of broadband service for low-income households and covers some of the costs of a computer or other device that can use the service. At the beginning of 2022, the program replaced the previous Emergency Connectivity Fund.
Stakeholders have warned that the ACP budget of $14.2 million would run out this year. The FCC expects that to occur in just over four months.
Rosenworcel outlined three steps that the commission expects to take to wind down the ACP program. These include:
- Providing guidance to 1,700 broadband providers participating in the program about the timing and about requirements for notifying participating households about the projected end to the program.
- Announcing a cut-off date for accepting new enrollees into the program. More than 240 outreach grant awardees will need to wind down their grant-funded ACP outreach
- Determining the projected end date for the program, then providing notice about that date and related issues
“To avoid consumer confusion and minimize the risk of bill shock, providers must give customers specific, frequent notice about the projected end of the program and their ACP discount, and how that will impact their internet bill,” Rosenworcel wrote in the letter.
Rosenworcel closed the letter by noting that “absent additional funding, we could lose the significant progress this program has made towards closing the digital divide. Yet we have come too far with the ACP to turn back.”
She said the commission “stands ready to assist Congress with any efforts to fully fund the ACP into the future.”
The letter went to the chair and ranking members of:
- The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
- The House Committee on Energy and Commerce
- The Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Committee on Appropriations
- The House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Committee on Appropriations
Also today, the FCC issued a fact sheet about the anticipated wind down of the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Updated with information from New Street Research