White House pushes for extension of internet program aiding many Washingtonians

Apr 3, 2024, 6:42 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2024, 11:46 am

Image: The White House is seen reflected in a puddle, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Washington, D.C....

The White House is seen reflected in a puddle, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (File photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)

(File photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)

Corrections and clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote about the Affordable Connectivity Program to Washington’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. The quote has been changed and the story has been updated and republished. 

The White House is pushing Congress to extend funding for an affordable internet program that affects hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians. It is set to expire soon.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps over 23 million Americans, including more than 350,000 Washington residents and around 77,000 King County residents, according to the City of Seattle and a fact sheet the White House has issued.

A news release from the White House states 1 in 8 households in Washington are saving money through the ACP.

The program gives those who qualify as low-income a $30-$75 discount on their monthly internet bill.

“In the 21st century, affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet is essential,” Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Benjamin said Monday during a press briefing, according to multiple media outlets. It’s “necessary for Americans to participate in school, do their jobs, access health care and stay connected with their loved ones.”

Past coverage: Affordable internet program may end for millions; these are other local options

Affordable internet program set to end in coming weeks

However, time is running out to get funding restored as the program is set to end at the end of this month. According to a news release the White House issued this week, President Joe Biden sent a request to Congress for $6 billion to extend the program.

“Without action, families may lose access to education, health care, job opportunities and more,” the news release states.

The White House stated that Democrats have joined Biden in support of the ACP but Republicans have “failed to act.” The White House says if Republicans continue to do nothing millions will see costs go up and some may lose internet access altogether. That point was reiterated on X, formerly known as Twitter, Tuesday.

White House plans ‘month-long push’

That’s why the White House is doing a “month-long push to encourage Congressional Republicans to act to extend funding,” according to the news release sent to members of the media.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will also highlight the “disproportionate impact that inaction from Congressional Republicans will have on veterans, students, seniors, Black and Latino communities, and more” according to the release.

This month, the White House plans to send materials to Congressional leaders explaining how many people could lose their internet access if nothing happens. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also sent out letters emphasizing the issue.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel supported funding for the program in that letter sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House, including Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell. She is the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (A PDF of the letter Rosenworcel sent to lawmakers can be viewed here.)

“To fully participate in the digital age economy, every household needs access to broadband. When Congress asked the Commission to set up the ACP to further this goal, we did so in record time,” Rosenworcel wrote. “The result has been the most consequential broadband affordability effort in our history. I want you to know that the agency remains ready to keep this program running, should Congress provide additional funding. We have come too far to allow this successful effort to promote internet access for all to end.”

However, the funding has yet to be approved and until then, the Digital Equity Learning Network in King County has laid out other local low-income options.

Contributing: Steve Coogan

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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