WASHINGTON — On Monday, the White House will announce that many major internet service providers are offering lower-cost high-speed internet services to low-income people. Combined with the $30 monthly internet service discount provided through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that Congress created in 2021, these plans would effectively provide free access to everyone who is eligible for that program.
President Joe Biden will join Vice President Kamala Harris at a White House event Monday afternoon to discuss these internet offerings, including plans from AT&T and Comcast as well as other large ISPs.
The announcement marks welcome efforts to lower the cost of this essential service. But it comes at a time when the FCC — the agency that oversees the country's communications industry — remains deadlocked thanks to these very same internet service providers’ stall tactics. Though Biden nominated Gigi Sohn to the FCC more than six months ago, Democratic leaders have thus far failed to call a vote to confirm her, leaving the agency without the 3–2 Democratic majority it needs to rule on a number of critical matters, including oversight of the ACP program. An industry-financed smear campaign geared at hobbling the FCC has blocked progress on Sohn’s nomination.
Free Press Action VP of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said:
“We’re grateful that the White House continues to prioritize internet affordability and we welcome its focus on the ACP initiative that the FCC successfully launched several months ago. That program is already helping tens of millions of people in the United States get and stay online. The biggest barrier to internet access is high prices, and we value any effort that will enable more people to sign up for the ACP program.
“Yet some of the internet service providers appearing at this White House event are sabotaging President Biden’s FCC even as they pose for today’s photo op. It will be hard to watch the president and vice president stand shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of the same companies orchestrating a smear campaign against Gigi Sohn — Biden’s nominee to the agency charged with overseeing the ACP and making sure the likes of AT&T and Comcast actually live up to their promises.
“We’ve now been waiting 474 days for President Biden and the Senate to give the nation a fully functional FCC. They have utterly failed to fully staff this vital agency, doing little as Senate Republicans and industry lobbyists blatantly block Sohn and repeatedly delay a vote on her nomination. The failure of the Democratic administration and Senate majority to see beyond this cynical effort and expediently confirm Sohn is undermining the FCC’s ability to close the digital divide, protect the open internet and fulfill many other commitments Biden himself has made.
“Sohn is a longtime advocate who’s devoted her career to defending the public interest and supporting policies that make broadband more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open and secure. She has widespread and nonpartisan support from a broad coalition of civil-society organizations, consumer watchdogs, privacy advocates and even some industry groups.
“The politics of delay and obfuscation have stalled progress on Sohn for months. Industry lobbyists and Republican obstructionists have done everything they can to frustrate this process — and Democrats have been completely ineffective at stopping them. Continued inaction has squandered the FCC's best chance to address the many crucial communications issues before the nation.
“The leaders of the Democratic Party must stop dragging their feet, and any senator who claims to care about internet access and affordability needs to declare their support for this stellar FCC choice. Senators must reject and denounce the dishonest industry-funded campaign against Sohn, defend this incredibly accomplished nominee and vote to confirm her as soon as possible.”