Affordable Broadband Program Sputters to a Halt, Ending Free Internet for 3.2 Million Rural Households

On June 3, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will is pay out the dregs of a fund that Congress established in 2021 to help lower-income families connect to the internet.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, part of the landmark 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is out of money as of May 31, 2024.

This month, the FCC sent final payments to some 23 million households that participated in the program. About 14% of participants (3.2 million households) were rural, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of FCC data.

The White House laid blame for closure of the program at the feet of Republican lawmakers who have not advanced pending legislation to continue funding.

“Republicans have failed to act,” said Stephen Benjamin, a senior adviser to the president, in an online White House press conference. “Millions of Americans will see prices increase for the necessary connectivity to do their homework, access telehealth, hold a remote job, or run a small business from their home.”

Benjamin called ACP “the largest and most successful internet affordability program in our nation’s history.”

ACP provided $30 to eligible families to pay for low-cost broadband connections. Participants on tribal lands were eligible for $75 a month. As part of the effort, the White House persuaded internet service providers to offer ACP participants a lower monthly subscription rate, resulting in no net cost to users.

The White House announced Friday that 14 internet service providers have agreed to continue offering the low-cost subscriptions to ACP participants for the rest of 2024, despite the end of federal funding for the program. But more than half of ACP participants get their broadband from an internet service provider that has not agreed to offer the lower rate. (See below for a list.)

“In the absence of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, President (Joe) Biden remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure families continue to access affordable high-speed internet,” Benjamin said.

ISPs That Will Continue Low-Cost Program

According to a White House fact sheet, the following companies (which range from national telecommunications giants to small, local companies) have agreed to continuing offering the $30 internet subscription with no data cap or fees through the rest of 2024:

  • Allo Fiber
  • altafiber (and Hawaiian Telcom)
  • Astound Broadband
  • AT&T
  • Comcast
  • Cox
  • IdeaTek
  • Mediacom
  • MLGC
  • Optimum
  • Spectrum (Charter Communications)*
  • Starry
  • Verizon
  • Vermont Telephone Company

*Offer available to new subscribers and eligible existing customers.

Read more.