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Funding the Affordable Connectivity Program Is Critical for Our Country’s Future

By Broderick Johnson

Funding the Affordable Connectivity Program Is Critical for Our Country’s Future

By Broderick Johnson

Published 02-05-24

Submitted by Comcast Corporation

A person in a couch using a laptop. A folded american flag behind them.

Our world increasingly operates online, and the Internet has forever changed our way of life. Today, everything – from working remotely and doing homework, to earning a degree or certificate, learning digital skills, applying for jobs, and communicating with your doctor – happens on the Internet.

The impact is tremendous, and today more than 22 million Americans are online with the support of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Unfortunately, funding for the ACP may run out as soon as April – putting so much progress at risk.

We agree with the bipartisan group of 174 mayors – representing cities from Scranton, PA and Jackson, MS to Beaverton, OR and Oakland, CA – who wrote to Congress this week highlighting the impact of the ACP and the urgent need to renew funding for the program.

A new study by the Benenson Strategy Group illustrates how impactful the ACP has been for participating individuals and families. The study (supported by Comcast) found that the program benefitted millions of households and may be the greatest advance in connecting lower-income families since our own Internet Essentials program was launched more than ten years ago. There’s a lot more work to do to enroll others, but as the Benenson research establishes, it’s well worth the investment.

Without the program, we run the risk of reversing advancements made to attach so many “at risk” citizens as tightly as we can to the modern world. The study confirms what I have seen firsthand – the ACP is benefitting Americans from all walks of life and across the nation. In fact, nearly 50% of ACP enrollees are military families, nearly 41% live in the South, and nearly 26% live in rural areas.

According to ACP participants, if they are unable to continue participating in the program:

  • 71% worry they will miss out on job opportunities that would help them get ahead financially.
  • 65% worry they will lose their job – a number that is even higher for Americans in rural zip codes.
  • 81% of ACP parents worry their children will fall behind in school.
  • 75% worry about losing access to important healthcare services, like online appointments or online prescription refills.

I’ve had the opportunity to cross this great nation to raise awareness about the critical role access to the Internet plays in our daily lives. Affordability has certainly been a significant barrier for many lower income households, and I have been able to point to the ACP and our own Internet Essentials (IE) program as substantial efforts to remove cost as a barrier. There are other barriers. I’ve met many who are simply unaware that they are eligible for these programs. And I’ve met others whose life experiences sadly make them distrust solutions like the ACP, as we have found in our research examining Internet Essentials. But along the way, I’ve met many inspiring Americans who are overcoming these barriers and whose lives have been transformed by the ACP and IE.

I’m especially proud of the outreach we’ve done in the military community – reaching veterans and military families through organizations like the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET). Last year, I visited MCVET in Baltimore where they helped a veteran named Michael learn about the ACP and connect to the Internet for the first time through Comcast. He is now using the Internet to access his hard-earned military benefits and set up job interviews to jumpstart a career in a new field.

There’s Mayra — a single mother of two in Philadelphia, PA. Without Internet access, her children struggled to the keep up with their schoolwork. But once she got her home connected with the help of the ACP (by enrolling in Comcast’s IE program), her children were able to stay on track in their own home. Today, one of her daughters is enrolled in a four-year university. She’s working to become one of the first in her family to graduate from college and to pursue her ultimate dream of becoming a lawyer.

I also met Gina— a mother of three from St. Paul, MN. When her kids faced a range of urgent and chronic health issues, she relied on ACP to help pay for home Internet so she could access digital healthcare and wellness services for her children.

At Comcast, we’ve been committed to closing the digital divide for more than a decade. For ACP participants concerned that the government will fail to extend the program, we have your back with options to keep you and your family connected. For example, we will continue to offer a variety of reliable, low-cost Internet services, like Internet Essentials, for as low as $9.95/month, the exact same price as when the service was introduced in 2011.

We’re also committed to reaching more Americans with our powerful network through expansions happening in every corner of the country. Every time Comcast flips the switch on a new residential block or bustling main street, we bring not only our world-class suite of services, but a commitment to supporting the community. In rural Biola, CA for example, we have invested in local organizations and since day one have shared broadband affordability resources like the ACP with residents.

Comcast also offers unlimited access to the nation’s largest network of WiFi hotspots through WiFi Pass, for $20/month. We’ll also continue to offer a range of speeds and service tiers to meet the needs of every household. In addition to our Internet products, we’ll leverage our expansive Digital Navigator network and our free, WiFi-connected Lift Zones in neighborhood community centers to ensure families have more ways to get online.

Connectivity has reinvented how we work and live. If we fail, in this historic moment, to reach the tens of millions of more Americans who don’t yet use the Internet at home, then our collective future is at risk. That’s why closing the digital divide must remain at the top of our country’s priority list. Comcast will continue to do its part, but the private sector can’t do it alone. Congress and the White House must make extending the ACP an immediate, bipartisan priority so that tens of millions of American households, including Michael’s, Mayra’s, and Gina’s get and stay connected to this critical resource.

Broderick D. Johnson is Executive Vice President, Public Policy, and Executive Vice President, Digital Equity for Comcast Corporation.

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Comcast Corporation

Comcast Corporation

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. NBCUniversal operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.

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