The ACP Extension Act Could Save Many Families’ Affordable Internet Access

(February 2, 2024)

The pandemic and lockdowns made it abundantly clear: internet connection is a necessary utility in this modern world. Just like electricity and water, it is necessary to have reliable, affordable internet to function in daily life. Whether it is to access school, work, pay bills, etc., so much of our lives are online these days. As the cost of living continues to rise, many people struggle to afford basic necessities – which includes internet access. For several years now, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has been helping families get more affordable access to the internet.

According to Forbes, the average monthly cost for home internet access is $65 (as of December 2023), though it can range anywhere from $20 to $300 a month. In many places, there may be only one internet service provider (ISP) available, meaning that it’s impossible to shop around for a more affordable price. When a family or household qualifies for the ACP, they can get up to $30 off of their monthly internet bill, and up to $100 off the price of a computer from participating providers. These discounts can make high-speed internet far more accessible and affordable for many families.

The ACP is a program run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It was launched on December 31, 2021 as a successor to the pandemic-era Emergency Broadband Benefit. About the launch of the ACP, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said:

“The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit proved what many knew to be true: the cost of high-speed internet is out of reach for too many of us… Now with the long-term Affordable Connectivity Program, we have the opportunity to enroll even more households and help ensure they can afford the internet connections they need for work, school, health care and more for years.”

She was right – in the just over two years since the ACP began, nearly 23 million households have enrolled and received benefits. Unfortunately, the $14.2 billion that were appropriated for the ACP back in 2021 are running out. It is projected that these funds will expire in April, and to prepare the FCC will stop accepting new enrollments next week on February 7. Without additional resources, all of those enrolled households will be at risk of losing internet access.

There is still hope, though. On January 10, a bicameral and bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act. If passed, the act would provide $7 billion to extend ACP benefits beyond April, allowing households to maintain their internet access for longer. Obviously, this extension isn’t a guarantee, given that Congress is still negotiating the remaining 2024 appropriations spending packages.

Allies for Children has signed on in support of the Extension Act as a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Digital Inclusion Alliance. As always, though, every voice that speaks out in support of this legislation makes the message louder. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Common Sense Media have both released toolkits for contacting legislators, including information and talking points.

We look forward to working with Congress and partners to get the ACP Extension enacted so that this crucial program will continue helping families, including those in Allegheny County, access the reliable and affordable internet that they need in today’s modern society.

Apply for the ACP as soon as possible before February 7
ACP Eligibility Guidelines

For more about the future of the ACP and the Extension Act: What’s Next for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Laura Condon, Allies for Children Project Coordinator