Chaos in Congress is now dominating the headlines, but it’s the American people who bear the brunt of its consequences. The gridlock and political infighting hinder the passage of crucial bills, impacting everything from healthcare and infrastructure to immigration and public safety. The American people, regardless of their political affiliations, depend on Congress to address pressing issues that affect their daily lives.
Within a year, it is estimated that federal funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a program that plays a key role in addressing the digital divide, will expire. While the ACP’s expiration would threaten the connectivity of the over 21 million households across the country, the most significant negative impact would be felt in rural communities throughout the Central Valley.
ACP is a federal initiative designed to bridge the digital divide by providing subsidies to low-income households for internet access. Launched as part of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, it offers a $30 monthly discount on broadband service and a one-time discount of up to $100 on a device.
Its significance to Central Valley communities is profound. Many rural areas suffer from limited internet options, hindering education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. ACP makes high-speed internet affordable, empowering residents with access to online education, telehealth services, and job opportunities. This program is pivotal in reducing the urban-rural digital divide, promoting equity, and fostering rural development in an increasingly digital-dependent world.
So what is at stake for Central Valley residents?
First, the ACP’s expiration would cause great harm to the affordability efforts that have been made over the past few years in rural areas. Starting with the Trump Administration’s Emergency Broadband Benefit, which then transitioned to the ACP, over the last few years federal broadband affordability programs have been key to enabling low-income, rural Americans to afford the internet. The data reflects this, as the communities with the highest program participation rates are red and rural.
But the termination of the ACP would also have a catastrophic impact on national efforts to expand broadband infrastructure to rural regions that still lack access. This is because the ACP plays a key role in complementing the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, a program which will fund construction of broadband networks in rural unserved areas. A recent study found that the ACP’s existence reduced the investment needed to incentivize providers to build in rural areas by 25% per household. Without the ACP, we will see these projects cost significantly more, bleed dollars, and cause the program to be out of funding before rural Americans receive the service they need.
I hope that our leaders in Congress understand that without connectivity, rural communities will always be at a significant disadvantage. The ACP is crucial in bringing high-speed internet to Central Valley communities and we must extend its funding before it expires.