Affordable, Accessible High-Speed Internet for Every American
Millions of Americans don’t have access to broadband—either because it’s not available or they can’t afford it.
Without affordable, reliable broadband connectivity, Americans in both rural and urban communities are held back. This means millions of students are falling behind in school, many older Americans cannot access online healthcare through telehealth solutions, and job seekers and employers have limited options. Communities without broadband access have higher unemployment.
This is a challenge that government policy in conjunction with the private sector can help solve. We can improve education, help job seekers, and put prosperity in reach for more Americans if Congress provides adequate infrastructure investment and smart policies that enable:
- Internet access to reach communities of every size using any and all technologies that provide high-speed internet cost-effectively, including wired connections, fixed wireless, and satellite;
- Every American to afford internet service and computing devices needed to connect;
- New internet users to learn to connect and benefit from technology.
The stakes could hardly be higher. Internet access is fundamental to participating fully in our society and economy. Our nation, economy, businesses, communities, and families will all benefit if every American can get online.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Invests in Broadband
On November 5, 2021, the U.S. House passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which includes a $65 billion investment in broadband, sending the legislation to President Biden to be signed into law. (The Senate passed the bill in August.) This investment includes funding to expand access as well as to help families afford broadband.
Passage of the IIJA represents a significant step forward in closing our nation’s broadband gap. In May 2022, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued Notices of Funding Opportunity for broadband programs created by the infrastructure bill. All states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, have received initial Digital Equity and Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) funds to develop plans for expanding broadband access.
Broadband Expansion Moves Forward in 2023
In 2023, the federal government continued to move forward with the implementation of the BEAD program, which will distribute $42.5 billion to states for broadband expansion. Project approvals are now underway, and states have been allocated funding ranging from $107 million to $3.3 billion. A complete list of all allocations can be found here. This represents the “ground game” of broadband deployment, with funding going to expand broadband infrastructure.
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
Critically, the infrastructure bill also included $14.2 billion in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). As the name suggests, the ACP helps expand broadband access by enabling low-income households to afford the monthly fee for broadband service. Through the ACP, qualifying households receive a $30 monthly discount on internet service and a one-time $100 device discount.
The ACP has been an overwhelming success, with more than 23 million households enrolling in the program through January 2024. These new broadband connections translate into immeasurable benefits, including access to education, training, job opportunities, government services, telehealth services, and more.
The American Consumer Institute estimates that the “investment value of this program will likely yield 160,000 in new jobs and contribute $37 billion to U.S. GDP, including over $9 billion in employment earnings.” In other words, our entire economy is lifted by the ACP. It is a public investment that makes social and economic sense—and it has bipartisan support.
Despite its success, the ACP will end in the first half of 2024 unless Congress takes action to renew funding. New enrollments in the program end on February 7. Without the ACP, millions could lose their broadband access—and the results would be devastating. More kids would fall behind in school. Job seekers would struggle to find work. Healthcare would become less accessible for many. This shouldn’t happen.
On January 10, 2024, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives introduced the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, which would provide an additional $7 billion to the ACP. Voices for Innovation members from around the country have been reaching out to their members of Congress to urge them to preserve the ACP. You can help with this effort by emailing your legislators as well. It takes just a few minutes to complete this action by following this link.
Shelley McKinley, Microsoft on the Issues