Internet providers outline post-ACP plans


Internet providers are preparing their post-ACP game plans.

The end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is fast approaching and providers and consumers alike are preparing for their next steps.

In early 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched ACP to replace the Emergency Broadband Benefit. The program provided eligible households $30 per month towards internet service ($75/month for those on qualifying Tribal land). Some households could also receive a one-time discount on purchasing a laptop, desktop, or tablet.

Now, the end of the ACP is imminent, unless Congress allocates additional funds. The program has less than $1.8 billion remaining, meaning that April is the last month in which operators will be able to provide the full $30 per month benefit with the program’s funding. In May, operators can choose to discontinue the benefit, or to put in place their own subsidized plans.

In a statement released on April 9th, 2024 the FCC indicated that the maximum benefit providers should expect to receive in May is $14 per ACP customer, or $35 per qualifying Tribal customer. The FCC stopped accepting new ACP enrollments in February.

Several providers have already outlined the strategies they will take to “keep consumers connected at this crucial time”, as urged by the FCC.

Verizon will offer home internet for as low as $20/month through “Verizon Forward”. New Verizon Forward customers will pay $0/month for the first 6 months they are enrolled.

AT&T will continue offering its “Access from AT&T” plan which provides 100 Megabit speeds for $30/month. With the ACP’s $30 discount, this plans was previously free for some customers.

With home internet from $9.95/month, Comcast’s “Internet Essentials” plan will continue to provide a low-cost connectivity option. Additionally, customers can transfer their ACP benefit to some plans.

Charter, who was “far and away” the largest provider in the ACP program, has not made specific announcements about ACP replacements or alternatives. However, some customers who were using the ACP benefit may be eligible for Spectrum’s Internet Assist Plan. This offers 50 megabit internet for $24.99/month.

Through August 2024, Fastwyre Broadband will continue to provide the $30 ACP benefit (and $75 benefit for those on Tribal lands) at its own expense. This applies to their existing ACP customers.

A number of other providers offer discounted plans for qualifying families, some from $10 per month. The Lifeline program will continue to provide a benefit, though it is smaller than that provided by the ACP. There are also a number of charitable organizations that can offer assistance with monthly internet costs or provide internet-enabled devices like laptops or tablets.

While there is bipartisan support for extending the ACP and there have been calls from ISPs, government bodies, and advocacy groups to provide additional funding, it seems increasingly unlikely that the program will continue.

Currently, more than 23 million households rely on the ACP to access the internet. The COVID-19 pandemic made it more clear than ever that a reliable, fast internet connection is crucial for participating fully in modern life. Without the extension of ACP or a comprehensive alternative, millions of Americans face being excluded from a host of opportunities.

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