A key broadband support program will soon expire, threatening service to millions of low-income rural families. The Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, gives qualifying low-income families 30 dollars a month toward internet service.
But the highly popular 14-billion-dollar program could run dry early next year with massive consequences for rural families. Sara Nichols, with the local North Carolina development group Land of Sky Regional Council, testified at a House subcommittee hearing.
Nichols said, “For many, this will mean connectivity ends. So, we would hope that providers would help us step up to the plate and offer affordability options, but our optimism is low, given the cost of deployment.”
California Democrat Tony Cardenas at the House broadband hearing; “We talked about the children who had to sit in parking lots and families who had to sit in parking lots of businesses for them to connect and get their homework done.”
And it’s not just homework, but work that could suffer without support. This exchange between Nichols and California Rep. Doris Matsui. Matsui said, “Ms. Nichols, can you discuss the relationship between connectivity on farms and the ability of rural areas to attract younger talent? Nichols “Yes, advances in technology will help appeal to a younger audience. With the aging Ag community, this is a critical component.”
Almost 21 million Americans now benefit from the Affordable Connectivity Program. Without it, millions of rural Americans could find themselves again on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’ next spring.