Biden’s Promise Of Internet For All Is Quickly Fading

Despite President Biden’s recent visit to North Carolina to tout his aim of universal affordable internet connection, the promise for 23 million people nationwide is uncertain.

Without new funding from Congress, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers $30 per month to eligible families in most areas and $75 per month on tribal territory, would expire at the end of April. President Biden has made universal internet access a central tenet of his reelection campaign, and this program is essential to that effort.

Participation in the ACP subsidy is still low, with only 43% of qualified households doing so. Participants in the program, however, have been able to gain access to critical services like telemedicine, distance education, and employment. Nearly 900,000 families in North Carolina and other states will be impacted when the program ends; they will be forced to choose between losing internet connection or paying to remain connected.

With over half of all eligible households registered, North Carolina ranks among the top states in the nation for ACP utilization. Legislators from both parties have introduced a plan to extend the ACP’s funding until 2024 with an extra $7 billion, or $1 billion more than what Biden requested from Congress for the program last year. Nevertheless, the law has not yet been scheduled for a vote, and it is uncertain whether the program will be prioritized in a deeply divided Congress.

Internet service providers have been directed by the Federal Communications Commission to send out information regarding the program’s anticipated closure, and the agency has declared that it would cease accepting new members after February 7 to wind down the program.

The infrastructure funding is part of a larger pot of $42.5 billion set aside for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which is core to the Biden administration’s initiatives to eliminate the digital divide permanently.