Today is a big day for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the estimated 48 million households who qualify for it across the country. The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing today that they have secured commitments from 20 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer at least one high speed internet plan with a minimum of 100 MB download for no more than $30 a month, and a guarantee of no additional fees or data caps.
ACP was established through the bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021. It allocated $14.2 billion to the program to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) that was established through a federal COVID relief package and amended the program in several ways, including adding additional consumer protections, reducing the monthly subsidy amount from $50 to $30, and requiring ISPs to open all their plans to be eligible for ACP.
While ISPs participating in the ACP are required to open all their plans to ACP, they were not required to offer the plans at a rate at or below $30, and there were no speed, quality or performance requirements. Thus, until today, many plans cost more than the $30 discount households could receive through the ACP program, leaving them with an additional cost they may not be able to afford. This new commitment ensures that an ACP eligible households, with access to the committed ISPs will be able to have internet in their homes with no out of pocket costs.
“NDIA celebrates the increased value of ACP,” said Angela Siefer, NDIA executive director. “Our affiliates are the trusted organizations helping sign up community members for the ACP. Affordable broadband service is essential to digital participation today – along with affordable devices, digital skills training, digital navigation, and tech support.”
The White House also announced other ways it is supporting ACP enrollment including:
- The launch of a new, streamlined website to enroll in ACP: GetInternet.gov
- A campaign to reach ACP-eligible households through coordinated messaging and outreach through the federal programs they’re already enrolled in (like Social Security)
- Partnerships with state and city governments to conduct outreach
- Collaborations with public interest organizations who provide enrollment support
During the briefing for stakeholders, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) underscored the importance of the forthcoming outreach and engagement grants to support ACP enrollment conducted by community-based organizations (CBOs) – which the FCC now has the authority to develop. The FCC noted the rules for those grants should be finalized this year.
This White House announcement is exciting, but more work is needed to ensure ACP is a success. The companies the White House has secured commitments from cover 80 percent of the population across the country – an impressive amount, though notably not 100 percent. NDIA will watch carefully to see if other providers commit to participate. Additionally, the White House announcement does not provide information on whether the low-cost plans from ISPs have a minimum upload threshold. The White House just notes the 100 MB download speed in the Fact Sheet they released today.
The White House is hosting a press briefing on this announcement this afternoon at 1:30PM ET.
For more information on the ACP program see our ACP page.