Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023
Expanding Internet Access with the Affordable Connectivity Program

Teaching middle school social studies remotely during the coronavirus pandemic presented numerous challenges for Steven Panchenko. His students at Global Village Academy in Colorado frequently experienced internet connectivity issues, sometimes missing significant portions of class. Panchenko himself faced frustrations, with a lagging internet connection impacting his personal activities. However, his situation improved when he learned about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The ACP is a $14.2 billion program funded by the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It aims to expand internet access to low-income households across the country. Eligible households can receive a monthly discount of up to $30 for internet service, with an increased discount of up to $75 for those residing on tribal land. Additionally, participants can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.

Panchenko signed up for the program through Verizon and was able to upgrade his internet package. He noticed that students who enrolled in the ACP performed better academically. The program provides vital financial relief for low-income households, making a significant difference in their ability to afford reliable internet access.

The ACP has seen a high uptake in Colorado, with over 219,000 eligible households signing up as of August 28. This represents a 35% year-over-year growth rate. Nationally, the program has enrolled 20 million eligible families across all 50 states. A survey revealed that 73% of ACP households experienced moderate to significant improvement in internet access, while nearly half reported better educational opportunities.

However, the program’s future is uncertain due to political circumstances in Washington. The ACP’s funding is scheduled to run out in mid-2024. As the cost of living continues to rise, many Coloradans are struggling to afford monthly expenses. To address this, Colorado plans to allocate $826.5 million from the infrastructure law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program to expand affordable broadband adoption. State officials acknowledge the need for a stable solution, recognizing that access to broadband cannot be wasted due to affordability challenges.

The ACP differs from the Federal Communications Commission’s temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit program, offering lower monthly discounts but catering to a much larger applicant pool. Over 1.2 million households in Colorado alone could qualify for the ACP based on income. The program has proven invaluable in helping low-income households stay connected and access essential services and opportunities after the pandemic.

Overall, the ACP has provided crucial support to individuals and families, ensuring equitable access to the internet during challenging times.