The US government is running out of funding for a program that could cut internet access for millions of Americans

Rural Kentucky - stock photo.
Millions of Americans, especially those in rural areas, might lose internet access when the ACP runs out of funding in April. REUTERS
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program allows low-income households to get internet access.

  • Millions could lose internet access when the federal program runs out of funding after April.

  • An FCC official told CNN the popular bipartisan program will end "because of politics, not policy."

Millions of Americans risk their internet access being disrupted if a critical government program runs out of funding next month.

The Affordable Connectivity Program has been helping low-income households access the internet since the Federal Communications Commission launched it in 2021. The program provides eligible households up to $30 off internet services every month, and households on qualifying Tribal lands receive up to $75 off monthly. according to the FCC.

But the ACP is winding down. According to the FCC, it stopped accepting new applications and enrollments in February, and the last fully funded month of the program will be April. US lawmakers don't even seem to be close to approving the Biden administration's supplemental request for an additional $6 billion to renew the program.

If the program shuts down, it will further exacerbate the digital divide and leave many older Americans, as well as those in rural areas and the South, without internet access. Among ACP subscribers, 19% are households with seniors, 26% live in rural areas, and 41% live in the South, according to a survey of 801 ACP participants from Comcast and the Benenson Strategy Group. Almost half are from military families.

"Because of political gameplay, about 60 million Americans will have to make hard choices between paying for the internet or paying for food, rent, and other utilities, widening the digital divide in this country," Gigi Sohn, a former FCC official, told CNN. "It's embarrassing that a popular, bipartisan program with support from nearly half of Congress will end because of politics, not policy."

The ACP has drawn strong, bipartisan support, with 62% of Republicans, 78% of Independents, and 96% of Democrats supporting the program, according to a survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and RG Strategies in December.

Once the program ends, some ACP subscribers say they'll need to work more just to stay online. Kamesha Scott — a 29-year-old mother of two in St. Louis who has two jobs, one at a restaurant dealing with takeout orders and another delivering Amazon packages — told CNN she plans to take extra work shifts.

And the ACP's shutdown is likely to impact tribal communities disproportionately. "I'm not saying maybe other people don't need [ACP funding,] but they probably don't need it as much as reservations or tribal areas where we are significantly under the poverty line," said Brian DeMarco, the general manager at Montana-based internet services provider Siyeh Communications, according to the telecom industry news outlet Fierce Telecom.

According to the outlet, ACP recipients are about 15% of Siyeh Communications' customer base, or about 2,000 subscribers in the Blackfeet reservation. "So to eliminate ACP altogether without looking at [that], I think is very reckless by the government."

The FCC, Sohn, Siyeh Communications, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

Read the original article on Business Insider