Internet discount program funding set to expire

April expected to be final fully funded month

IRON MOUNTAIN — The future of a program that helps one in six households in the U.S. pay for internet service remains in doubt as funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program will expire by the end of May.

ACP provides $30 a month for qualifying families but will run out of money if Congress doesn’t extend it. Participants will either lose internet access or have to pay more to stay connected.

Funding initially came from a COVID-relief package approved by Congress in the final days of 2020 and the program was extended as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021. Today there are more than 23 million subscribers, but the $17.2 billion that Congress has appropriated since 2020 has run out. ACP is due to sunset, according to the Federal Communications System.

Bipartisan legislation to extend the program has stalled in the House, where there are enough votes for passage but not from a majority of Republicans, ACP supporters say. The FCC has now announced that April is the last fully funded month for an ACP discount.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, along with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, say ACP households should prepare for the end of the program by doing the following:

— Check for messages from your internet provider regarding the wind-down of ACP and the effect it will have on your bill. Your internet provider will let you know when the discount on your monthly bill will end.

— Go to www.fcc.gov/acp to keep up to date regarding announcements from the FCC regarding the wind-down.

— Contact the Universal Service Administrative Co. for questions about the wind-down. Customers may call the ACP Support Center at 877-384-2575 or go to www.affordableconnectivity.gov.

— Check with you current internet provider to see if they offer any special internet offerings for low-income households. If a household would like to continue to receive internet service after ACP ends, they may stay with their current provider or select a new provider.

Households may also consider participating in the Lifeline program to obtain assistance toward their internet service. The Lifeline benefit, however, has stricter eligibility requirements and provides a lesser discount.

During the wind-down, households enrolled in ACP are not required to stay with their internet provider or continue to receive the same internet service after the end of ACP.

According to the Biden Administration, about half of those receiving an ACP benefit are military families and a quarter are seniors. Others are families with school-age children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, low-income college students and households on tribal lands. The subsidy on tribal lands is up to $75.

In October, the White House proposed a $6 billion request to continue funding ACP that has yet to be granted. In January, a bipartisan bill proposed a $7 billion extension.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel sent a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month urging support. A commission survey showed that 77% of households say losing their ACP benefit would disrupt their service by making them change their plan or drop internet service entirely, she said.

Households receiving subsidies may still receive a partial discount of $7 to $16 in May, the FCC estimates.

The median price for internet service in the U.S. is about $75 a month, according to a December analysis from Consumer Reports.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today