Internet Bills to Climb for Millions of Americans as Government Subsidy Ends

by EditorK
Households used to receive discounts of $30 to $75 under the program.

People pass by a Verizon store in Chicago, on April 20, 2017. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully

Telecom companies are notifying customers about the end of a subsidy program that provided cheap internet to Americans, which could push up internet bills for millions.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) federal initiative offered households up to $30 per month in discounts toward their internet service. For households from qualifying tribal lands, the discount went up to $75. More than 23 million households are enrolled currently.

However, the $14.2 billion in funding that Congress made available for the program is running out.

April will be the last month that ACP households will receive the full discount. In May, it will be reduced to a partial discount. After May, no more discounts will be offered if Congress does not replenish the program’s funding.

Telecom companies have been notifying ACP customers about the impending end of their discounts, with some offering alternatives.

Spectrum already makes it clear that if funding is not provided, the “ACP Internet credit you have been receiving on your monthly bill will end.” While the customer will continue receiving Spectrum service, they will have to pay the full cost.

Verizon also clarified that “all ACP benefits will end when the current funding runs out in the next few months.” Once it ends, customers can “continue on your plan at the price without the ACP subsidy or you may end your services with Verizon.”

In a statement to Nexstar news wire, Verizon said it will offer eligible households a monthly discount of up to $20 through the company’s “Verizon Forward” program. To be eligible, ACP households have to transfer an active ACP benefit to Verizon before the program ends.

A spokesperson from AT&T told the news wire that the company is pushing the administration for a more permanent solution on the issue.

The telecom company already offers low-cost internet service through its “Access from AT&T” initiative, available to households that receive benefits like SNAP and SSI. Households whose incomes are below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines also qualify. The standard plan, costing $30 per month, comes with unlimited monthly data.

T-Mobile told Nexstar that it was getting in touch with households who will be impacted by the end of the ACP program. Like other telecom firms, T-Mobile also offers low-cost plans that could help households deal with the end of ACP discounts.

With ACP ending, many Americans now face a tough choice to cut down their expenses elsewhere to pay for higher internet bills.

“My grandkids, they make fun of me, They say I’m cheap. I go, ‘No, Grandma’s thrifty.’ I don’t have any choice; I have to account for every penny,” Cynthia George, a 71-year-old retiree, said in an interview with CNN.

“And this would mean that that food bill would have to be cut down. There’s no place else I would be able to take it from.”

Households Struggle

According to a survey by Benenson Strategy Group in collaboration with Comcast, “there is widespread concern that loss of the ACP would mean job losses and losing access to health care” for households benefiting from the program. 

“65 percent of ACP Participants fear losing their job or their household’s primary source of income … 75 percent of ACP Participants fear losing access to important healthcare services, like online appointments or prescription medicine refills … 81 percent of ACP parents worry about their children falling behind in school.”

Among ACP demographics, 49 percent were found to be military families, 19 percent were households with seniors, and 26 percent were located in rural areas.

“School REQUIRES internet access. The days of a book for each subject, worksheets, and a pen or pencil are gone. Some [kids’] parents cannot afford the costly internet or it’s at least bottom of the ‘important bills.’ However, every child in school NEEDS internet connection. It is the most important factor for children in school,” a single mom said in the survey.

A December 2023 survey by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that 77 percent of respondents may be forced to change their internet plans or drop the service entirely if they lose ACP benefits.

According to the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, Americans sent over 280,000 phone calls, emails, and social media posts to Congress by late January, asking lawmakers to support funding for ACP.

“The internet is no longer optional—it’s essential. Without broadband, our local communities cannot access opportunities in education, and employment, nor speak out online and exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“Households who struggle to afford broadband shouldn’t have to sacrifice other necessities to stay connected. The Affordable Connectivity Program has proved to be so necessary that it is facing a funding cliff. But, the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act could stop families from falling off. We are grateful to the bill sponsors for looking out for families in need.”

The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act was introduced in January and seeks to add $7 billion in additional funds to the ACP while lawmakers consider making permanent fixes.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.

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