The Divide: Why the Affordable Connectivity Program is key to closing the digital divide

The US federal government is on the cusp of making its largest investment in broadband in history, through the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. But as we get closer to seeing those dollars roll out to states, and then to providers, there’s growing concern about the ability for tens of millions of households to afford access to broadband services.

That’s because the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) – a $14.2 billion program, originally funded, along with BEAD, in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – is rapidly running out of funding. The ACP provides a monthly broadband subsidy of $30 (up to $75 for households on tribal land), with a one-time device discount of $100, for qualifying low-income households. However, without action from Congress, the ACP is set to run dry by April 2024 – potentially kicking millions of people off of their broadband plans. That reality would also create a dilemma for service providers, as they are required by statute to offer a low-income service option if they participate in BEAD and other federal broadband grant programs.

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