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Affordable Connectivity Program Updates

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NCHBC Monthly Bulletin: March 2023 NC Healthcare Broadband Bulletin


As we’ve noted in earlier bulletins, the most important barrier to the adoption of telehealth is broadband access, and one of the most important reasons for lack of access is affordability. A key provision in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was a $14.2B set aside to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a program intended to address this issue. An innovative program that enables consumer choice, ACP has been very successful with over 20 million households nationwide leveraging the program. In North Carolina about 900,000 have done so.  Unfortunately, the funding is expected to run out in the next month. Efforts to extend funding have been ongoing, but at present the future of ACP is not encouraging. Without ACP we can anticipate many existing subscribers having to drop their subscriptions widening the digital divide.

Affordable Connectivity Program Background

According to the PEW Research Center, almost one quarter of U.S. adults do not subscribe to home broadband. This “broadband adoption gap” has continued even as physical broadband access has increased. Those without broadband are disproportionately members of the “covered” populations in NC’s Digital Equity Plan, those that are older, minorities, rural residents, and less educated. As a case in point, around eight percent of those with incomes of at least $75 thousand a year are without a broadband connection while over forty percent of households with incomes less that $30 thousand a year are not connected.

To address this issue, at least as an initial contribution, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized the Affordable Connectivity Program. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (ILJA) allocated $65 billion for broadband funding to eliminate the digital divide across the country with $14.25 billion allocated directly to ACP. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government assistance program that helps struggling households afford access to the internet. The ACP provides $30/mo. discounts toward internet access for eligible households and for households on Tribal lands, up to $75/mo.  Eligible households may also receive up to $100 toward the purchase of a computing device like a desktop computer, tablet, or laptop computer. 

Eligible households include those that are at or below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines, a member of the household received a Pell Grant during the current year, or household members participate in other federal assistance programs like the School Lunch program, SNAP, or Affordable Housing Programs.

ACP’s “direct to consumers” approach is an innovative policy design that allows consumer choice. Consumers, rather than government regulators, choose the internet service providers, the services, and the plans they want. This approach leads to enhanced consumer satisfaction, promotes competition among providers, and it encourages adoption by eligible households. As we have seen, most importantly, it addresses a real and important need.


Since its inception in 2021, the ACP has enrolled nearly 23million households nationwide and over 900,000 in North Carolina. This high adoption rate points to the need and effectiveness of the program’s design and communications strategy. It has also drained the one-time appropriation such that funding is expected to run out in the next month or so. The ACP stopped accepting new applications and enrollments on February 7, 2024. The last fully funded month of the program is April 2024. Existing ACP households enrolled before the enrollment freeze will continue to receive benefits through the final month of ACP service. Households that are de-enrolled during the wind-down period will not be able to re-apply or re-enroll in the ACP. Participating internet service providers are now sending out notices to their subscribers about the termination of ACP

At the same time, a bill to extend the ACP, known as the ACP Extension Act of 2024, has been submitted for congressional review. The bill requests $7B in funding. It has bipartisan and bicameral support. Reps Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NT) are its sponsors, and the bill has 215 cosponsors. The President has also included $6B in his budget to extend the program’s funding through 2024.  Unfortunately, time is running out, and the bill is subject to the current disfunction in Congress. It appears that while efforts are continuing to secure an extension, ACP will end.


The NC Healthcare Broadband Coalition has established an affordability working group. Its initial focus has been on the extension of ACP.  To this end, it has submitted letters of support for ACP extension on behalf of several healthcare providers and birds-of-a-feather organizations. While it appears ACP may have run its course, the working group continues to work with other healthcare and broadband stakeholders to identify ways in which ACP or a similar program might sustainably support subsidies for the “covered populations” of our state. More to come.

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