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WASHINGTON — On Monday, a coalition of 271 civil-society groups and local, state and Tribal governments sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives that urges all members to sign a discharge petition (H. Res. 1119) filed by Rep. Yvette Clarke  (D–New York) in support of the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act. The legislation would provide an additional $7 billion to save a successful broadband-subsidy initiative.

The Federal Communications Commission, which administers the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), will run out of funding for the program in a matter of weeks if additional federal funding is not provided. The program, created as part of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package, now helps connect more than 23 million U.S. households living near the poverty line or enrolled in federal-aid programs like Medicaid and SNAP.

“Access to affordable high-speed internet is not a luxury in 2024,” reads the letter, which Free Press Action organized. “[The ACP] represents a huge step forward in closing the digital divide for low-income, rural and Tribal communities, including many people of color and people with disabilities. Without additional funding for the program, we stand to backslide on that progress.” (Follow this link for a full list of the groups that signed the letter).

The latest count of House supporters of Clarke’s legislation is 225, including 22 Republicans, surpassing the majority benchmark necessary to pass the bill and extend funding for this crucial program.

Free Press Action Internet Campaign Director Heather Franklin said:

“There is absolutely no time to waste. If Congress doesn’t act, in a matter of days the internet bills for one out of every six homes in the country will go up. And we know, thanks to a survey the FCC conducted late last year, that the loss of the ACP would disrupt the service of a majority of the program’s enrollees. That means millions of households across the country could lose their ability to access job opportunities, education, health care, online banking and government services, as well as their ability to stay informed about what’s happening in their communities.

“The continuation of the ACP is critical not only to the families the program connects but also to other recent federal investments in closing the digital divide. A lapse in funding for the ACP could limit the impact of Congress’ historic $42-billion investment in connecting unserved people in the United States.

“Thousands of people from across the political spectrum have called their members of Congress and urged them to support new funding for the ACP. Time is of the essence. We cannot let these households lose their vital connections merely because Congress didn’t have the foresight to vote on an immensely popular bill with a bipartisan majority’s support.

“In a nation as wealthy as the United States, there’s simply no excuse for anyone to have to choose between staying connected to their utilities and putting food on the table. We applaud the ACP’s many supporters in Congress. Now they must use all of the tools at their disposal to push Representative Clarke’s essential legislation forward.”

Background: Rep. Clarke introduced the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act in January with bipartisan co-sponsorship from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R–Pennsylvania). Sen. Peter Welch (D–Vermont) and Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Ohio) introduced a companion measure in the Senate. The ACP provides households with up to $30 per month for the internet package of their choosing from participating providers — and up to $75 per month for people living on Tribal lands.

By filing a discharge petition, a member of Congress can bring a bill out of committee to be voted on by the entire chamber. The signatures of an absolute majority of House members are required, and the measure may only be filed after the legislation in question has sat in committee for at least 30 legislative days without being reported.

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