January 5, 2022 by Tom Cohen

January 5, 2022 - $16 billion Affordable Connectivity Program for Low-income Households is Launched


I know most broadband providers are now focusing on the many billions of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act broadband deployment funding that State and local governments have begun awarding and will continue to award throughout 2022.  And we are all getting ready to turn our attention next to Infrastructure Act deployment funding when NTIA releases the Notice of Funding Availability in the 2nd quarter and awards funds to States and Territories in the second half of the year.  But, in the meantime, we should not lose sight of the adoption funding that has been flowing under the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) and now the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).  Getting government support to sign up low-income households can produce real returns – even where there are added compliance costs and even when the maximum reimbursement amount drops from $50 to $30 per month.

In the seven months that the EBBP was in effect, almost 9 million in-need consumers enrolled, and the program awarded over $1B in funding – 90% of which went for broadband connectivity.  In addition, while 70% of the connectivity funding so far has gone to mobile providers, this is significantly less than in the Lifeline program – and mobile providers had a head start, enrolling their existing Lifeline customers.  Many wireline providers also were not Eligible Telecom Providers and had to begin from scratch and scale up just to participate in the program.  Going forward there is approximately $16B available for the ACP, and the hundreds of now eligible wireline providers have an opportunity to enroll millions more low-income households and gain a much larger share of the funding.  Moreover, even when this funding runs out many years down the road, I expect Congress will renew it.