FCC warns millions of households could lose broadband discounts without additional funding

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned lawmakers Monday that it will have to begin winding down the Affordable Connectivity Program that provides broadband discounts to millions of American households if it does not receive additional funding from Congress.

The program’s remaining funding is expected to run out in May, and it would need another $6 billion from Congress to extend the program through the end of the year, the agency said.

“This program now helps nearly 23 million households nationwide — in rural America, urban America, and everything in between — get online and stay online so that they have the high-speed internet service they need to fully participate in modern life,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a series of letters to congressional leaders.

“Absent additional funding, we could lose the significant progress this program has made towards closing the digital divide,” she added. “Yet we have come too far with the [Affordable Connectivity Program] to turn back.”

The program currently provides discounts of up to $30 per month on internet service for eligible low-income households and up to $75 per month for eligible households on tribal lands, as well as a one-time $100 discount to purchase a laptop, desktop or tablet.

The FCC said it expects to begin taking steps to wind down the program this week “to give households, providers, and other stakeholders sufficient time to prepare.”

It warned that some 1,700 providers would be affected by the program’s end and may cut off internet service to households currently participating in the program.

The agency also suggested that the program’s termination would undermine the $42.5 billion investment in high-speed internet that the Biden administration announced earlier this year.