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Funding at risk for program that helps millions afford internet

Sean Michael Newhouse, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — More than 20 million low-income households are at risk of being priced out of internet access unless Congress can reach agreement on funding for a program that provides internet service discounts.

Supporters of the Affordable Connectivity Program are pressing for passage of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to keep it afloat past April, when funding is expected to run out. That outcome may depend on Congress’ ability to pass appropriations measures to prevent a government shutdown, and some supporters are worried that it’s not a priority for Republican leadership.

“We’ll attach it to anything,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said of the legislation at a news conference last week. “We just are going to try to do whatever we can because we don’t want this program to expire. Because if it does it’s going to be very detrimental to all these people that need internet access.”

Pallone is the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications.

About 23 million households are enrolled in the Federal Communications Commission program, providing them with discounts for internet service of up to $30 per month and up to $75 per month on qualifying tribal lands. The FCC stopped accepting new applications in February and warned users that it’s winding down the program unless funding comes through.

Pallone and others are looking to provide appropriations for the remainder of the current fiscal year by attaching it to any of the 12 annual spending bills. Congressional leaders have yet to reach agreement as temporary funding for agencies under four of them lapses on Friday, and the rest expire on March 8.

 

A spokesperson for Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who introduced the Senate version, said Welch is pushing to include his legislation in any of the funding vehicles. His bill is backed by Sens. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, D-N.Y., sponsored the House version, which has 29 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Their bills would appropriate $7 billion to the ACP through the remainder of fiscal 2024, which ends Sept. 30, or longer if the funds last.

Broad support

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