Biden requests $6B for ACP, $3B for 'rip and replace'Biden requests $6B for ACP, $3B for 'rip and replace'
The White House requested $6 billion to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program through 2024 and $3.1 billion for removing 'insecure equipment and software' from communications networks. The funding requests rest with Congress.
October 26, 2023
The Biden administration on Wednesday submitted a formal request to Congress for nearly $56 billion in supplemental funding for domestic priorities, including $6 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and $3.1 billion for the FCC's "rip-and-replace" program.
The funding request follows last week's letter from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting $105 billion in emergency supplemental funding for fiscal year 2024 for "key national security priorities." That letter signaled the administration's intent to request additional funding for the ACP in "the coming days."
Now, the Biden administration has officially called on Congress to fund the ACP with $6 billion through December 2024. The request comes as the program, which provides a monthly broadband subsidy for over 21 million households, is projected to run out of funding by April 2024, which would require service providers to start issuing termination notices by the end of this year. The $6 billion request follows months of lobbying by the industry and consumer advocates alike for extended funding.
"The Affordable Connectivity Program, enacted under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is already helping over 21 million households save over $500 million per month on their monthly internet bills. The program is also critical for the Administration's high-speed internet deployment programs for rural, remote, and Tribal communities," reads the White House fact sheet about the supplemental funding request. "Without this funding, tens of millions of people would lose this benefit and would no longer be able to afford high-speed internet service without sacrificing other necessities."
In addition to the ACP, the White House also requested $3.1 billion for the FCC's rip and replace program funding the removal of Huawei and ZTE equipment from communications networks. That program was originally funded with $1.9 billion, but service providers and the FCC have long been pushing for an additional $3 billion to cover the true costs of the program. Recently, the FCC extended the deadline for some companies to upgrade their networks due to the funding shortfall.
In its fact sheet, the White House said its $3 billion request would "fully reimburse eligible communications providers for the ongoing removal of insecure equipment and software from communications infrastructure that may pose a national security threat to the United States."
Well, now it's up to Congress.
Wednesday's official request from the White House for ACP and rip-and-replace funding lined up with Republicans in the House of Representatives finally electing Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as their new Speaker, after weeks of leaderless infighting and general chaos.
Speaker Johnson, a hard-right conservative, must now work with Congress on a path to fund the government before a potential shutdown in mid-November. While it's unclear where Johnson stands on ACP funding, as pointed out by Blair Levin in an analyst note for New Street Research, 29% of the homes in Speaker Johnson's Louisiana district are enrolled in the ACP, "almost double the average congressional district which has 16% enrolled, making the district one of the top 30 in terms of enrollment in a Republican district," said Levin.
Regardless, with funding requests now in the hands of Congress, what happens next is murky. But advocates are preparing to push the funds across the finish line.
In a post on LinkedIn, Gigi Sohn, executive director of American Association for Public Broadband (AAPB), cheered the ACP funding request, adding: "But the work is just beginning - we need to make sure first that this becomes part of whatever funding bill moves through Congress before the end of the year. Then we have to give this critical program a forever home in the FCC's Universal Service Fund. The good news is that the ACP is popular with everybody - Democrats, Republicans, ISPs big and small and civil society organizations of all kinds."
The $6 billion request for the ACP also received a shout out from industry groups like USTelecom: "The Affordable Connectivity Program is a critical part of reaching our shared goal of universal connectivity. We applaud the Administration's request for additional funding for the ACP. The program has already enabled more than 21 million low-income households to participate in our digital economy. We urge Congress to find a long-term solution to sustain this vital program," said CEO Jonathan Spalter in a statement.
In its fact sheet about the funding request, the Biden administration called on Congress to work together to fund the government along with these additional priorities.
"The Administration continues to call on Congress to reach a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement to fund the Government, which is critical for a number of bipartisan priorities ... we expect Congress to address these needs as well as today's supplemental funding request," said the White House.
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like
5G Network Automation and AI at Global Megaevents: A Telco AI-at-scale case study with Ooredoo and EricssonOct 10, 2023
5G Transport & Networking Strategies Digital Symposium.Oct 26, 2023
Improve Service Efficiency in the Call Center and Field with Slack AutomationOct 13, 2023
Open RAN Evolution Digital Symposium Day 1Jul 26, 2023