ACP funding lapse imminent despite various paths forward

With mere days until the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) runs out of funds, Congress is considering several ways to save the program. But a funding lapse is almost guaranteed, and a path to saving the ACP is still murky.

Nicole Ferraro, Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast

May 22, 2024

3 Min Read
Piggy Bank with Cobwebs
The ACP, which subsidizes broadband for 23 million low-income households, will run out of funding at the end of the month.(Source: Jan Stromme/Alamy Stock Photo)

As May nears its final days, so does the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP, which entered a partial payment period at the start of the month, will officially end on May 31, unless Congress decides to save it.

While there are myriad efforts underway to compromise on a path forward, saving the program is still seen as unlikely. "As time goes on, the ISPs and ACP recipients will adjust to a post ACP world, with new funding and new requirements adding to what is already an administrative and customer service challenge," said Blair Levin in an analyst note for New Street Research this week.

Nevertheless, here are the latest and ongoing paths under consideration:

  • On Monday, May 20, House Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY) announced new legislation to fund the ACP with $6 billion, with alterations. Dubbed the Affordable Connectivity Program Improvement and Extension Act of 2024, the legislation would refund the ACP with $6 billion by amending the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024. "This creates no additional taxpayer burden and is fully paid for through existing federal funding," according to a press release. (Notably, the White House had initially asked that Congress include $6 billion for the ACP in its 2024 funding request which lawmakers neglected to do at the time.) In addition to funding the ACP through 2024, Rep. Williams' legislation also "includes measures to combat fraud, such as requiring eligible households to enroll in the ACP through the National Verifier or National Lifeline Accountability Database," though it would allow current ACP recipients to continue receiving the benefit for 180 days "regardless of future eligibility status." As of this writing, full text for the bill had not been released and the bill had just one co-sponsor: fellow New York Republican Congressman Anthony D'Esposito.

Related:The Divide: Why the Affordable Connectivity Program is key to closing the digital divide

  • Simultaneously, efforts are still somewhat underway to fund the ACP via spectrum legislation, through a proposal from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). However, a Senate markup session on that bill was twice delayed, and leading Democrats and Republicans remain at odds, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), an ACP opponent, proposing an amendment to slash the benefit in urban areas and spend half of ACP's budget on auditing. "Democrats haven't found enough willing Republicans and the soonest the committee could even consider a markup is the first week of June," reported Communications Daily. Another effort to fund the ACP via an amendment to the 2024 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act also failed.

Related:How the FCC could save the Affordable Connectivity Program

  • Following the failure to amend the FAA bill, Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) introduced that amendment as a standalone bill in the Senate. As of this writing, the bill text had yet to be published, but the legislation had five bipartisan co-sponsors, including: Senators JD Vance (R-OH), Steve Daines (R-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). The compromise bill would fund the program with $6 billion, cut the one-time $100 device subsidy and tighten eligibility requirements. Industry sources say they see this as the most viable path forward. However, the soonest chance for a markup on this bill is also early June, after the ACP has already lapsed for its 23 million enrolled households.

  • Meanwhile, the ACP Extension Act, a bill in the House to fund the program with $7 billion – introduced by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) in January – still has the most visible bipartisan support, with 230 co-sponsors, including 24 Republicans, according to But neither that bill, nor a discharge petition to vote on the bill without the blessing of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), has seen movement, despite technically having enough support to pass the House.

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About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

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