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89 years old, disconnected, and cut off from his doctors

Feeling the loss of the ACP: It’s real…and real-bad for some

by Jessica Denson, Communications Director, Connected Nation

Washington, DC (July 9, 2024) – It’s been barely a month since the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) sunset, and Connected Nation (CN) is already hearing from those directly impacted by its loss.

As the Director of Communications for CN, I field incoming emails from the public and direct them to the right resource or group for their particular need, whether it’s one of CN’s broadband experts, a state or federal organization, a for-profit company, or another nonprofit.

About 70% of these emails are business related, but the other 30% are simply people looking for help, such as the email I received this week from Jerry in Michigan:

My cousin is 89 years old and lives in Kalkaska County, Michigan. He had ACP until it ran out of funds recently. The county, from what I'm being told, only has [one company] for internet.

He lives in low-income housing and is at or near federal poverty level. Are there any programs in Michigan that can provide him with internet service?

Kalkaska County is known for heavy snow in the winter, and this limits him from going out. He needs internet service to connect with his medical advisors.

I directed Jerry to some local resources and organizations that will hopefully be able to help.

But the point is—this is just the beginning. Jerry’s cousin is a case study in what is happening right now in both urban homes and rural communities across the country. It’s dawning on senior citizens, single mothers, young adults, veterans, low-income families, immigrants, and so many others who live at poverty levels that they won’t be able to afford their internet because the ACP is now gone.

Like Jerry’s cousin—an 89-year-old man living in affordable housing and near or below the federal poverty level—millions of Americans will not be able to reach their doctors or do schoolwork, apply for jobs, or access government services.

We did something as a country that before the pandemic seemed impossible—we enabled millions of people to access  the internet. For the first time, those who struggled could finally access the resources and opportunities found online to improve their lives.

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Study after study shows that having access to the internet can provide a way out of poverty. For example, one study released before the COVID-19 pandemic found that high levels of broadband adoption in rural communities reduce unemployment growth and positively impact income growth. Another study concluded that increases in broadband adoption levels are associated with an increase in median household incomes.

Researchers have also estimated that the improvements in broadband adoption and speeds across the United States over the course of the decade accounted for $1.3 trillion of the 2020 GDP, which is about $4,000 per person.

The positive impact of connecting those millions of people through the ACP was not just felt by the individuals and families it helped but by our entire economy. Recent research shows that ACP enrollment was highest in areas experiencing the greatest economic distress.

Let’s not forget the impact it’s going to have on a generation of children who are already struggling thanks to the pandemic. The authors of a 2021 report from McKinsey & Company write, “The fallout from the pandemic threatens to depress this generation’s prospects and constrict their opportunities far into adulthood. The ripple effects may undermine their chances of attending college and ultimately finding a fulfilling job that enables them to support a family.”

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They go onto to say, “Unless steps are taken to address unfinished learning, today’s students may earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime owing to the impact of the pandemic on their schooling. The impact on the US economy could amount to $128 billion to $188 billion [lost] every year as this cohort enters the workforce.”

But yet, we’ve now taken away a critical resource for those children. It won’t be long before parents must start thinking about a new school year. Imagine for a moment what this could possibly mean for these millions of children to now suffer additional learning loss due to the homework gap.  

Although the ACP has sunset, there’s no reason we can’t do what we did before and roll it back out or establish a new program to connect those in need like Jerry’s cousin.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently launched a new hotline for filing complaints about the loss of the ACP.  I encourage you to call or go online (contact information below) and share your thoughts about the importance of this program. Better yet, if you know someone impacted by its loss, please encourage them to share their story.

We could create a new program or even return to the ACP and continue to build on the progress that was made for the 23 million American households that were enrolled (and the millions more who qualified for ACP). But that can only happen if we ALL add our voices to the conversation and give the FCC a strong argument for funding from those directly impacted.

Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation©.

Acp Hotline

To submit a consumer complaint about ACP: 

By phone: You can submit an informal complaint over the phone by calling 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322)

En Espanol: Haga su reclamo en línea, o llame al 1-888-225- 5322 para recibir atención en español


About the author: Jessica Denson is the Communications Director for Connected Nation. In that role, Jessica is responsible for overall brand strategy, which includes building program recognition through digital communications, media relations, and marketing opportunities.