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New FCC data shows impact of affordable broadband lapse

News: More than two-thirds of Americans enrolled in an expiring affordable broadband program had inconsistent or zero connectivity before getting the government subsidies, according to a new Federal Communications Commission survey.

A draft of the FCC survey seen exclusively by Punchbowl News comes as the Affordable Connectivity Program’s congressional detractors argue it has been wasteful. The program is on the verge of running out of funding.

As we’ve reported on our equity platform, The Punch Up, the ACP’s biggest critics, including House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), contend the FCC hasn’t provided data to prove its efficiency.

Another critic, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), told us earlier this month that the “ACP wasted billions in taxpayer money paying the internet bills of people who already had broadband.”

According to the draft of the soon-to-be-released report, more than half of the program’s rural users previously had no connectivity and relied solely on mobile internet services.

“And more than three-quarters of respondents said losing ACP support would disrupt their service or cause them to drop internet service entirely,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, said in a note accompanying the draft report.

The agency is pleading with Congress to save the $14 billion program before it runs out of money in April. The FCC stopped accepting new enrollments earlier this month in anticipation of the lapse in funds. Currently, 23 million subscribers are enrolled in the program.

About 75% of ACP users aged 18-24 said the subsidized connectivity helped them access their school work. Three-quarters said they used it to access health care services. Nearly half said it helped them apply for jobs.

The survey comes amid a major funding fight on Capitol Hill, with several lawmakers, including Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), pushing Congress to fund the ACP through appropriations.

Despite broad support, there’s no clear path right now in Congress to rescuing the ACP on time.

– Mica Soellner

Presented by AARP

AARP knows older voters. 

We’ve made it our business to know what matters to people 50 and over—like we know that protecting Social Security and supporting family caregivers are among their top priorities. Learn more from our polling in Pennsylvania.

Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.