Walter Prescher, a father of 10 living at home, believes that having internet access is crucial for maintaining the efficiency of his household.
Prescher told CBS News that with the hectic family life and numerous children, the funds could be allocated towards engaging in other activities with the kids.
He resides with his family in College Station, Texas. As a disabled veteran of the Iraq war, he was eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Through this program, his family receives a $30 monthly allowance for internet service, which is overseen by the FCC. In addition to his own participation, Prescher assists others in accessing the program through his role as a digital navigator at Easter Seals of Greater Houston, a non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities and special needs.
According to EveryoneOn, a organization that supports disadvantaged communities in getting internet connection, 18% of households earning $50,000 or less per year lost their internet access due to financial struggles during the pandemic. For households with lower and middle incomes, 40% reported being unable to afford high-speed internet subscriptions, while 22% felt they could manage to pay $25 per month.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finds it challenging to estimate the number of people who will lose their internet access without the program’s support, as well as the number of service providers (out of 1,700) that may terminate services for households no longer eligible for the program. However, it anticipates that the number could be in the millions due to the increasing demand for the program.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has requested that Congress allocate $6 billion to the Affordable Connectivity Program for the remainder of the year. This program, which was established through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, has nearly exhausted its initial $14 billion in funding. Without additional funds, the FCC will have to start winding down the program this week, impacting approximately 23 million households. The current funding is anticipated to run out in May.
Chairwoman Rosenworcel stated in a letter that if Congress does not allocate more funding for the ACP soon, many households will no longer receive the ACP benefit that helps them afford internet service. This could also result in approximately 1,700 internet service providers being impacted and potentially cutting off service to households that are no longer covered by the program.
The ACP offers a $30 monthly payment for internet service to eligible individuals. To qualify, households must meet specific income criteria or already receive government assistance such as SNAP, Medicaid, or veterans’ pensions. Those living on tribal lands may be eligible for up to $75 per month. The payment is given directly to internet providers.
The program has garnered support from both parties in the Senate and the House, as well as from governors in multiple states. In a letter to congressional leaders last November, 26 governors highlighted the significance of the program as the Biden administration allocated over $40 billion in funds to increase access to broadband internet nationwide. The letter emphasized the need to ensure that people do not lose their internet access, which was made possible by this crucial program.
Some lawmakers have
Worries have been expressed about the possible mismanagement and abuse of the benefit. This concern was highlighted by a report from the Government Accountability Office, which was released in January and noted the lack of an anti-fraud plan in the FCC program. However, it has been reported that the agency has since implemented measures to address this issue.
A member of the FCC also acknowledged the FCC’s retrieval of approximately $50 million in ACP funds, which were willingly returned by an internet provider who had incorrectly received them from June 2021 to July 2022.
Despite obstacles such as these, discontinuing the ACP would have a devastating impact on the millions who rely on it, according to Prescher’s argument.
Prescher stated that discontinuing this program and abandoning the families who rely on it will have a significant negative effect on both the economy and education in the future. They believe that the long-term consequences of this decision may be too much for our country to bear.
Willie James Inman