NATIONAL NEWS

White House renews calls on Congress to extend internet subsidy program

Feb 6, 2024, 2:27 AM

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 18, 2024. The White House is pressing Cong...

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 18, 2024. The White House is pressing Congress to extend a subsidy program that helps one in six families afford internet and represents a key element of Biden's promise to deliver reliable broadband service to every American household. "For President Biden. internet is like water," said Tom Perez, senior adviser and assistant to the president, on a call with reporters on Monday. "It's an essential public necessity that should be affordable and accessible to everyone." (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

The White House is pressing Congress to extend a subsidy program that helps one in six U.S. families afford internet and represents a key element of President Joe Biden’s promise to deliver reliable broadband service to every American household.

“For President Biden, internet is like water,” said Tom Perez, senior adviser and assistant to the president, on a call Monday with reporters. “It’s an essential public necessity that should be affordable and accessible to everyone.”

The Affordable Connectivity Program offers qualifying families discounts on their internet bills — $30 a month for most families and up to $75 a month for families on tribal lands. The one-time infusion of $14.2 billion for the program through the bipartisan infrastructure law is projected to run out of money at the end of April.

“Just as we wouldn’t turn off the water pipes in a moment like this, we should never turn off the high-speed internet that is the pipeline to opportunity and access to health care for so many people across this country,” Perez said.

The program has a wide swath of support from public interest groups, local- and state-level broadband officials, and big and small telecommunications providers.

“We were very aggressive in trying to assist our members with access to the program,” said Gary Johnson, CEO of Paul Bunyan Communications, a Minnesota-based internet provider. “Frankly, it was they have internet or not. It’s almost not a subsidy — it is enabling them to have internet at all.”

Paul Bunyan Communications, a member-owned broadband cooperative that serves households in north central Minnesota, is one of 1,700 participating internet service providers that began sending out notices last month indicating the program could expire without action from Congress.

“It seems to be a bipartisan issue — internet access and the importance of it,” Johnson said.

Indeed, the program serves nearly an equal number of households in Republican and Democratic congressional districts, according to an AP analysis.

Biden has likened his promise of affordable internet for all American households to the New Deal-era effort to provide electricity to much of rural America. Congress approved $65 billion for several broadband-related investments, including the ACP, in 2021 as part of a bipartisan infrastructure law. He traveled to North Carolina last month to tout its potential benefits, especially in wide swaths of the country that currently lack access to reliable, affordable internet service.

Beyond the immediate impact to enrolled families, the expiration of the ACP could have a ripple effect on the impact of other federal broadband investments and could erode trust between consumers and their internet providers.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently proposed a bill to sustain the ACP through the end of 2024 with an additional $7 billion in funding — a billion more than Biden asked Congress to appropriate for the program at the end of last year. However, no votes have been scheduled to move the bill forward, and it’s unclear if the program will be prioritized in a divided Congress.

___

Harjai reported from Los Angeles and is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

National News

North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson listens during a meeting of the N.C. State...

Associated Press

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson announces his retirement after nearly 15 years in the role

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Another chancellor in North Carolina’s public university system has announced plans to step down — this time at the state’s largest university by enrollment. North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson declared his retirement plans at the university’s trustees meeting Thursday, capping off nearly 15 years in his role. His term […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

Kansas won’t force providers to ask patients why they want abortions while a lawsuit proceeds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas isn’t enforcing a new law requiring abortion providers to ask patients why they want to terminate their pregnancies, as a legal challenge against that rule and other older requirements makes its way through the courts. Attorneys for the state and for providers challenging the new law along with other requirements […]

46 minutes ago

Associated Press

Salman Rushdie’s alleged assailant won’t see author’s private notes before trial

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Author Salman Rushdie does not have to turn over private notes about his stabbing to the man charged with attacking him, a judge ruled Thursday, rejecting the alleged assailant’s contention that he is entitled to the material as he prepares for trial. Hadi Matar’s lawyers in February subpoenaed Rushdie and publisher […]

49 minutes ago

FILE - Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., speaking during the Republican National Convention Tues...

Associated Press

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announces trade mission to Europe

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said she’s traveling to Europe for her second trade mission there as governor, which will include a visit to an air show in the United Kingdom. The Republican governor announced she’s traveling to the Farnborough Air Show, which begins July 22, to pitch […]

57 minutes ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally...

Associated Press

What to know about the Secret Service’s Counter Sniper Team

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Secret Service sniper killed the would-be assassin of former President Donald Trump in a split-second decision, taking out the man perched on an adjacent rooftop. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle has publicly praised the sniper’s quick work on Saturday. But the Counter Sniper Team is now subject to a review […]

57 minutes ago

FILE - Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks at the 2023 Margaret Thatcher Fr...

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: Heritage Foundation leader wrong to say most political violence is committed by the left

WASHINGTON (AP) — The leader of a conservative think tank on Thursday misrepresented partisan differences in political violence in the United States, wrongly suggesting that people associated with left-wing causes commit more violence than those on the right. ___ HERITAGE FOUNDATION PRESIDENT KEVIN ROBERTS: “Most political violence in the last 25 years has been initiated […]

1 hour ago

White House renews calls on Congress to extend internet subsidy program