Over 10 million US households are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a $14.2 billion program that provides a monthly broadband subsidy to qualifying low-income homes, the White House announced today.
The Affordable Connectivity Program, funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL) signed by President Biden in November, is the successor to the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB): a temporary subsidy program passed as part of a larger COVID-19 aid package.
Under the new program, intended to be permanent, a household can receive up to $30 off their monthly broadband bill (up to $75 for households on tribal land), as well as a one-time $100 discount on a device.
Both affordability programs have been managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Of the 10 million households participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, roughly 9 million are existing enrollments from the EBB that rolled over. Since the launch of the new version of the program in January, around 1 million additional households have enrolled.
At a White House press event this afternoon, Vice President Kamala Harris – who President Biden had put in charge of broadband last year during a joint session of Congress – along with FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and White House Senior Advisor Mitch Landrieu, announced the 10 million household milestone. Thanks to the ACP, one in four American households are now eligible to receive a monthly broadband discount, they said.
In her remarks, VP Harris explained why that's necessary.
"Half of all the people who do not have high-speed Internet say it is because the monthly cost is too high," said Harris. "Every person in our nation and every parent no matter how much they earn should be able to access high-speed broadband Internet. And that is why we are here today."
Administration officials were also joined by a student named Julissa, who spoke about not having Internet access at home prior to the pandemic and the affordability subsidy and the difference having access has made since.
"Having high-speed Internet at home helped me and my siblings with our education and provided a way for us to bond, like having family movie nights and family game nights. It has helped us do research and keep in contact with family and friends. I'm currently working on my senior project, my siblings are able to do their homework and my mom learns new skills she needs for her job," she said.
'Meaningful' provider participation
According to the FCC's database tracking ACP participation, over 1,200 providers have signed up to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program so far.
While some ISPs had sought to use the prior benefit program to "upsell" customers into higher-priced plans, the new program prohibits such tactics through its rule-making. It also seeks to improve outreach efforts both in coordination with ISPs and community organizations.
To that end, while the 10 million household milestone is significant, it might represent a far smaller number than those actually eligible. BroadbandNow released data in December showing that roughly 30 million US households were eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
In her remarks about the program, Harris stressed the need for "meaningful" participation from providers in order to ensure all who need the subsidy can enroll in it.
"We are working with community and faith-based organizations to help people fill out their applications, and we are calling on all Internet service providers to participate meaningfully in this program to offer more affordable, high-speed plans to customers and to spread the word to all eligible households," said Vice President Harris. "This will take all of us working together."
— Nicole Ferraro, site editor, Broadband World News; senior editor, global broadband coverage, Light Reading. Host of "The Divide" on the Light Reading Podcast.