Expired Subsidy Leaves Millions Facing Internet Affordability Crisis

Expired Subsidy Leaves Millions Facing Internet Affordability Crisis

A lack of funds from Congress is causing the largest broadband affordability program in the country to come to an end.
(Photo : by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A lack of funds from Congress is causing the largest broadband affordability program in the country to come to an end.

Reluctantly, the Federal Communications Commission is ending a pandemic-era program that assisted millions of low-income Americans in accessing and maintaining the internet as of this Saturday. After being established in December 2020, the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, eventually registered more over 23 million people in rural, suburban, and urban America, or one in every six families in the country.

Prior government initiatives to reduce the digital divide have mostly concentrated on providing high-speed internet access everywhere, with little regard for people's financial situation. Nonetheless, in the first week following the launch of the ACP's forerunner in May 2021, over a million families joined.

According to the director of the FCC, many ACP participants are elderly people on fixed incomes, and their loss of benefit will force them to make difficult decisions between using the internet and forgoing other essentials like petrol or food.

In order to facilitate the ACP's administration, the FCC implemented an enrollment freeze in February of 2024, the year when the program would formally expire.

According to the organization, the affected families include over 3.4 million rural homes, over 300,000 households in tribal regions, and over four million households with a previous military member on active service.

There is another FCC program called Lifeline that offers qualifying households a $9.25 monthly benefit on internet access; but, it is not a substitute for the ACP, according to the FCC.

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Economic Implications for Households

The termination of the ACP is set to impose significant financial strain on the 23 million affected families, forcing them into difficult decisions about their household budgets. For many low-income households, internet access is not a luxury but a necessity, essential for various aspects of daily life such as education, healthcare, and employment.

One of the immediate consequences of losing the ACP benefit is the need for families to allocate a larger portion of their limited income towards maintaining their internet connection. This reallocation often means cutting back on other critical expenses like food, medication, and transportation. For example, a single mother working two jobs to support her children might find herself choosing between paying for the internet her children need for school and putting enough food on the table.

Moreover, the financial burden is particularly acute for veterans who have previously served their country. Many of these individuals, now part of the civilian workforce or retired, rely on the internet for accessing veteran-specific healthcare and support services. The sudden increase in internet costs could hinder their ability to access these vital resources, compounding their financial and emotional stress.

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The content provided on is for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice. Please consult with a professional financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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