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Is ACP Being Discontinued and How to Prepare for That?


latest ACP update

As the U.S. Government's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) hangs in the balance, millions of American households face the potential loss of their telecommunications subsidies. The program, aimed at providing financial relief to low-income households, has been a lifeline for millions during the pandemic. However, with a possible cessation in sight, the repercussions could be significant.

The Impact of ACP's Potential Closure

According to a recent report by New Street Research, the U.S. telecom industry could face losses of about $4 billion in market value and $1.1 billion in revenues if the ACP ends. This estimation is based on a survey conducted among over 1,000 ACP beneficiaries, data gathered from multiple sources including the FCC and Benton Institute, as well as industry observations.


The survey revealed that about 27% of ACP beneficiaries would likely discontinue their service if their bill were to increase by $30, which is the amount of the ACP subsidy1. This could translate into around 1.2 million households dropping their telecom services1.

Moreover, approximately 1.6 million households may reduce their telecom spending by $15 per month if the ACP comes to an end.


The ACP and Its Importance

The

was built on the framework of the U.S. Government's Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which was established during the pandemic. It offers up to $30 per month to low-income households for telecom services1. Currently, around 23 million American households utilize this program.


Companies participating in the ACP were required to notify their customers by March 19 that the ACP program might end. The FCC also announced that May would be the last month partial ACP funds would be available.


The Legislative Hurdles

.The U.S. Congress and the President have agreed on a temporary plan to keep important government services running, avoiding a government shutdown. However, there's still doubt about whether a program called the ACP will continue. Blair Levin, a policy expert at New Street Research, thinks it's unlikely that a new law will be passed to keep the ACP program going.


An Internet-less Future

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that April will be the last fully funded month for the ACP. As a result, over 20 million U.S. residents are at risk of losing their free or discounted internet access in April.

The ACP has been instrumental in making telemedicine appointments, home deliveries, and job searches possible for many Americans who may not have had access otherwise.


The Fight for ACP Extension

Several government representatives are rallying to extend the ACP. However, the FCC has started shutting down the program, which was initiated in December 2021 as the federal government’s solution to bridge the digital divide in the U.S.

The high cost of internet services, especially in rural areas, has been a long-standing issue. About 20% of rural households lack internet access.

The end of the ACP could severely impact telemedicine, which is most heavily used by rural residents

.

Notification for ACP Beneficiaries

According to the FCC, internet providers will send three required written notices to ACP beneficiaries. These notices will inform households about the following:

  • The end of the ACP.

  • The impact on their bill.

  • The date of the last bill that includes the ACP benefit.

  • Their options: whether to change their service or opt out of continuing service after the end of the ACP.

What Can You Do?

If you lose ACP funding, the first step should be to contact your provider to see what plans they offer. Several ISPs offer cheap internet plans.


There are also other low-income internet programs available. Some states have low-cost internet subsidy plans in place, and there are also several nonprofit organizations that offer resources for free or reduced-cost internet.


For those who are mobile, public Wi-Fi at libraries, cafes, public parks, or other establishments offering free internet could be an option.


Conclusion

The potential end of the ACP is a significant concern for millions of American households. The future of the program now lies in the hands of the U.S. Congress. In the meantime, beneficiaries of the program should start considering their options and preparing for a future without the ACP subsidy.


Frequently Asked Questions


Q1. What is the ACP ending date?

It's clear that the ACP stopped accepting new applications and enrollments as of February 7, 2024, and the last fully funded month of the program is April 2024.

Households enrolled by the enrollment freeze date will continue to receive benefits through April 2024 unless they are de-enrolled according to FCC rules.


After April, the program's funding is expected to run out, and without additional funding from Congress, providers may only receive partial reimbursement for offering ACP-supported services in May 2024. Enrolled households must stay informed through communications from their internet service provider and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the ACP, regarding the transition.


Q2. What happens to my internet service after the ACP ends in April 2024?

After the ACP ends, the discount you received on your internet service will no longer be applied. You should contact your internet service provider (ISP) to discuss your options, which may include switching to a different plan that fits your budget or exploring other discount programs that your ISP may offer.


Q3. What should I do if I receive a device through the ACP?

If you received a one-time discount on a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet through the ACP, there are no additional actions you need to take regarding the device after the program ends. The device is yours to keep.


Q4. How can I file a complaint if I have issues with my ISP during the ACP wind-down?

If you encounter problems with your ISP related to the ACP wind-down, such as being forced into a more expensive plan or experiencing issues with switching providers, you can file a complaint with the FCC. Visit the FCC's complaint center online for instructions on how to file a complaint.


Q5. Will my internet bill increase after the ACP ends, and how can I prepare?

It's likely that your internet bill will increase to the pre-ACP discounted rate unless you switch plans or qualify for another discount. To prepare, review your budget and consider contacting your ISP to discuss more affordable plan options. It's also a good idea to explore community programs that might offer assistance with internet bills.


Q6. Are there resources available to help me understand my rights as the ACP winds down?

Yes, the FCC and USAC provide resources and information to help you understand your rights and options as the ACP winds down. Visit the AffordableConnectivity.gov website and the FCC's website to access FAQs, fact sheets, and other helpful information.


Q7. What happens if I move to a new address before the ACP ends?

If you move to a new address before the ACP ends, you should notify your ISP and the USAC as soon as possible to ensure that your ACP benefits are transferred to your new location, if possible. Keep in mind that you'll need to use the service at your new address to remain eligible.


Q8. Can I switch my ACP benefit to a different ISP during the wind-down period?

Yes, ACP participants have the right to switch their benefit to a different participating ISP at any time, including during the wind-down period. This can be beneficial if another ISP offers a plan that better suits your needs or budget.

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