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WASHINGTON — On Thursday evening, the U.S. Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization package without a proposed amendment to provide $6 billion to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Without this injection of new capital to the ACP, the broadband-access subsidy that has helped more than 23 million households get and stay online will expire in May. The bipartisan amendment would have extended the program through the end of 2024.

Congress created the ACP in 2021 to provide households living near the poverty line or enrolled in other federal-aid programs 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. In May, the Federal Communications Commission partially cut these benefits as funding began to run out.

Free Press Action Internet Campaign Director Heather Franklin said:

“Free Press Action is deeply disappointed in Congress for failing to pass funding for this essential and successful internet-access subsidy. We appreciate the efforts from Senators Luján, Welch and Vance to get the amendment added to the FAA bill, and are also grateful to Representatives Clarke, Fitzpatrick and Williams for their indefatigable leadership in the House on this issue.

“While the program’s days are numbered, Congress still has a chance to save it. It doesn’t matter whether funding is extended through an amendment to other measures or as a stand-alone bill. Leadership in both the House and the Senate must step up before it’s too late. Without the ACP, more than 23 million households face the imminent loss of the support they need to afford their broadband bills.

“The ACP has greatly benefited millions of rural, urban and suburban families, including many people of color and people with disabilities. That’s why it enjoys bipartisan support in Washington — including from 231 members of the House and 32 members of the Senate, who signed on in support of the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, which would provide $7 billion in funding to keep the program afloat through the end of 2024.

“Lawmakers should not walk away from a program that is vital to so many of their constituents. High-speed internet isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity like power and water. Without it, you can’t access basic things like education, health care, jobs, government services and other information about what’s going on in your community.

“If we’re serious about closing the digital divide in the United States, we must get the cost of connectivity under control. The ACP plays a central role in doing that while providing people everywhere with access to a resource that's essential to our collective well being. Lawmakers must pass legislation that extends funding for affordable high-speed internet access for everyone.”

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