Home Internet Subsidy Program Ending

John Lister's picture

A program to make broadband cheaper for low income households will soon expire. The Affordable Connectivity Program provokes political debate on both the importance of technology and the role of government.

The program launched in 2021 with a $14 billion funding commitment from the federal government. It was available for households based on their income or them also being eligible for programs such as Medicaid or nutritional aid.

Eligible households received a $30 discount on their broadband bill. Some providers created basic packages priced at $30, meaning the households did not pay any money. Households could also receive a discount of $100 on a laptop, desktop or computer. However, this came with an odd rule that it was only available if the household paid more than $10 and less than $50 after the discount, meaning the device had to cost less than $150.

Money Running Out

The program was set up to run only until the $14 billion was entirely spent. As that point is rapidly approaching, the program has now entered a wind-up stage with no new participants allowed.

With the number of participants now fixed, program organizers say they will be able to offer the full $30 discount as normal in April. They will then offer a final partial discount in May, after which the subsidies will end. Unless broadband carriers change their offer, bills will rise by $30 a month. (Source: fcc.gov)

It's possible the program will continue if Congress approves additional funding. While the program appears to have some bipartisanship support, there's no sign of any legislative moves.

Political Hot Topic

Debate over the program is partly about the general principle of government subsidies and partly about whether broadband access counts as a necessity in modern society. The program was somewhat based on the long-running Lifeline program that offers a subsidy for home telephone service.

CNN reports that almost half of the households that joined the program never had home Internet before. (Source: cnn.com)

Supporters of the program argue that the investment boosts the economy, for example by making remote work more viable. It could also reduce health care costs by making telemedicine an option.

What's Your Opinion?

Should Congress allocate additional funding for the program? Is home Internet a necessary part of participating in society? Are there other ways to boost Internet access without government spending?

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russoule's picture

If I were a provider of internet products, apps;hardware;storage;information;subscriptions; surveys, I think this program would be great, because the government is paying for my potential customer base to increase without my money being used. Kinda like having Uncle Sam put up a billboard advertising the local restaurant's meals at a cut-rate price. Would THAT be a good thing? For the restaraunt? Of course. For the taxpayers? Heck NO! If the restaurant wantd to advertise. let it advertise on its own money, not the poor taxpayer's.