By Corinne Murdock |
The city of Phoenix rolled out a new, equity-focused internet subsidy program this week using federal funding.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a $700,000 grant through the $14 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The funds will provide discounted internet of up to $30 off per month for most households but up to $75 off per month for tribal land households. Eligible households must be at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego announced that 80,000 households were enrolled in the program, with an estimated additional 100,000 who could qualify.
The federal program also qualifies certain households for a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet if they contribute anywhere between $10 to $15 toward the purchase.
Those who qualify for other forms of federal welfare programs may also qualify for ACP.
The Biden administration launched the ACP through the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November 2021. The administration brokered a deal with 20 of the nation’s main internet providers to offer ACP-eligible households internet plans for no more than $30 per month.
Effectively, ACP-eligible households get free internet initially if they sign onto the 20 internet providers that worked with the Biden administration. The providers are Allo Communications, altaFiber (Hawaiian Telecom), Altice (Optimum), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Cox Communications, Frontier, IdeaTek, Jackson Energy Authority, Mediacom Cable, MLGC, Spectrum, Starry, Verizon, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber, and Wow! Internet, Cable and TV.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel presented the ACP grant in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Rosenworcel served as commissioner under both the Obama and Trump administrations. In a 2018 profile, the Washingtonian noted that Rosenworcel had continued her equity-oriented efforts through the Trump administration.
With the apparent lobbying efforts by these main internet providers to make ACP funding permanent, it appears that Biden’s arrangement for free internet is a limited-time offer. Nearly 18 million households have signed up for ACP.
On Tuesday, Verizon Senior Vice President Kathy Grillo warned that ACP funding was projected to run out as early as the first quarter of next year. Grillo urged for a more permanent subsidy structure for internet access.
Most internet providers set their contracts to last for a mandatory minimum of two years. The ACP subsidies will only last as long as funding is afforded to it.