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Affordable Connectivity Program: Why Does It Matter Now?

Affordable Connectivity Program
This illustration picture shows a virtual road trip on a computer and the travel application logo from Alcove displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia on March 19, 2021. - Strict lockdowns and travel limitations during the pandemic have sparked fresh interest in immersive virtual travel experiences, which have become more accessible and affordable with new apps and VR hardware. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a significant advancement that merits examination as the country pursues attempts to connect more individuals to high-speed internet. 

The initiative is assisting in removing some hurdles that prevent low-income Americans from accessing the internet at home, demonstrating America’s commitment to promoting digital equality and boosting broadband adoption. 

It’s vital to comprehend why the ACP is so crucial to bridging the digital divide as new initiatives and partnerships to support the program are launched. 

Affordable Connectivity Program

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event announcing that more than 10 million households are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, the nation’s largest ever broadband affordability program, due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, on February 14, 2022. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Affordable Connectivity Program: Why It Matters Now?

An estimated 16 million Americans have access to dependable high-speed internet thanks to the $14 billion Affordable Connectivity Program. But an editorial piece on The Hill indicated that the program will soon run out of money. 

Non-partisan Government Accountability Office also mentioned that fraud and complaints had plagued this federal program that assists millions of low-income households in connecting to the internet. 

Democrats and Republicans have generally supported the “internet for all.” Still, lawmakers are now pressing the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for explanations after GAO revealed that the program lacks fraud safeguards. 

“The results of GAO’s findings reveal that the FCC’s (Affordable Connectivity Program) is subject to massive waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a joint statement with fellow Republican U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota).

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For the government initiative to succeed, internet service providers must sign up eligible clients for very reduced or free internet access plans, which may also include a free tablet or mobile phone. CBS News wrote that the government gives providers a $30 monthly stipend directly. 

After discovering that the same information about an eligible kid was being used to falsely enroll hundreds of homes in the government program for free internet connection, the Inspector General for the FCC issued a warning about an ongoing fraud campaign targeting the program last fall.

But the GAO also advised the FCC to step up its outreach initiatives. Only 43% of eligible U.S. homes are engaged in the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Challenges Ahead

To increase user enrollment, Light Reading mentioned that the FCC established three award funds that will be made available in 2023. To assist local governments, NGOs, and other groups with outreach initiatives, they include the National Competitive Outreach Program ($60 million) and Tribal Competitive Outreach Program ($10 million). 

Additionally, the FCC created Your Home, Your Internet ($5 million) to raise ACP awareness among beneficiaries of federal housing assistance and ACP Navigator ($5 million) to aid organizations that support individuals filling out ACP applications. The deadline for all grant submissions is January 9, 2023. 

The FCC has recently established yearly data-gathering guidelines for ISPs taking part in the Affordable Connectivity Program in order to assess the program’s effectiveness and fulfill a statutory obligation. The program’s future may be influenced by the reports that are anticipated to start arriving early next year. 

It is uncertain if a new Congress would take action to preserve the ACP since its financing is anticipated to run out by 2025. Many individuals anticipate an increase in ACP advocacy activities from consumer interest organizations and ISPs who stand to gain next year.

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