Please enter a valid search term.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is winding down. So, what’s next for the 23 million Americans it helps every month?

Washington, DC (April 15, 2024) – Going. Going. Gone.

That’s how quickly the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is slipping away for the millions of low-income individuals and families it helps.

The program provides discounts on monthly bills for at-home high-speed internet (broadband) and one-time computer equipment purchases. However, April is the last month it is fully funded.


There were—and continue to be—moments where it looks like it might be saved.

The ACP Extension Act is a bipartisan bill that was introduced in January in both the U.S. House and Senate and allocates an additional $7 billion to support the program. The legislation was referred to the appropriations committee in both the Senate  and the House, and has 221 cosponsors in the House from both sides of the aisle, and three cosponsors in the Senate in addition to the original sponsor – two Democrats and two Republicans.

Despite this momentum, the bill has stalled and funding for the program wasn’t included in the recent $1.2 trillion spending package.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees the program, froze new enrollments at 11:59 pm on Feb. 7. According to the FCC wind-down fact sheet, unless Congress acts, ACP households will receive their fully funded discounts in April and likely a partial discount on their May internet bills if their provider participates through May.

Right now, with billions of dollars pouring into the states to expand high-speed internet access through the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, it’s hard to believe that the very program (ACP) that helps ensure those without the financial means to purchase that broadband is not already authorized to continue. These families and individuals represent a large portion of the underserved and/or unserved populations BEAD is ultimately supposed to reach.


To say losing this benefit would impact the most vulnerable of Americans—23.3 million now enrolled in the program— is an understatement.

Among those who qualify for the ACP are households at or below 200% of the poverty line; individuals or families already on assistance programs like SNAP or Medicaid; and students in households that receive free or reduced lunches.

Those households will have to choose—keep the internet or feed the family. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s a reality for many.

The pandemic led to the creation of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which morphed into the ACP. That’s because it became immediately clear to everyone that broadband was an essential and critical lifeline to schools, jobs, economic opportunities, health care, and so much more.

That reality hasn’t changed simply because funds are running out for the ACP.

Millions of children, young adults, working parents, senior citizens, Tribal Nations, farmers, ranchers, college students, and others will no longer have access to the resources they need.

So, if Congress doesn’t take action to fund the program permanently through legislation, what can be done? There is actually a solution—one that not only all of us at Connected Nation (CN) support and encourage but others within the digital inclusion and equity space have as well.

The FCC should rethink and rework the rules guiding the Universal Service Fund (USF).

The Fund was established by the Communications Act of 1934, which also created the FCC and stated that “all people in the United States shall have access to rapid, efficient, nationwide communications service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” 

At the time, it focused on combining and regulating telephone, telegraph, television, and radio communications. The legislation was later updated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which focused on subsidizing telephone companies that serve high-cost areas; low-income customers needing telephone service; telecommunications for rural health care services; and telephone, internet access, and internet connections for schools and libraries (referred to as E-rate).

The world now fundamentally ‘connects’ in much different ways than what was contemplated all those many years ago and the promise of all that lies ahead begs an updated body of policy to enable its timely and equitable arrival.

It's important to note that although E-rate includes an internet component, it only addresses those connections at and to schools and libraries, not the need of a child at home (something some administrators have argued for in the past). Indeed, this broader sense and need for children to engage digitally, anytime and anywhere, is now standard practice in the American education system.

It’s not a difficult leap to suggest that the USF should be reworked again—this time for extending discounts to households in the same vein as the ACP.

After all the original intention of the Fund was “so all people shall have access to rapid, efficient, nationwide communications service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”

There has been a bipartisan working group in the Senate looking at this very issue, which is encouraging. The problem is timing.

Unless the USF solution happens within the next couple of weeks, millions of households will be left either without service or with a difficult decision. This comes after the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars, through the state and territory broadband offices, to convince people to sign up for service because these funds were available.

In 2024, nearly a century after the Communications Act of 1934 was enacted, we encourage Congress and the FCC to work together to provide both a stopgap measure for temporary funding and a long term solution.

Whether that’s through the expansion of the Lifeline program that’s been suggested by some members of Congress for a short-term fix or a quick rework of the USF for a long-term solution, the simple fact is 23 million Americans can’t be left without access to rapid, efficient, nationwide internet service.

Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.