Money Running out for Millions of Californians on Internet Subsidy Program

Source: San Diego Voice and Viewpoint

Starting in Mid-January, millions of low income Californians will get the notice that their internet access subsidy funded by the Affordable Connectivity Program will run out by mid-April. Consequently reinstating the barrier at the heart of the digital divide, internet cost.

Birthed as a result of growing internet inequities amid the depth of the pandemic, the Biden Administration under the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, funded a $14 billion dollar Affordable Connectivity program (ACP) to provide low-income households $30 per month off their internet bills and an additional $100 voucher to go towards a laptop or computer purchase. On qualifying tribal lands, this subsidy could go up to $75.

Since the program started, over 20 million American households have enrolled. Within San Diego County, almost two hundred households have enrolled, particularly concentrated within the unincorporated, central and southern parts of the county, according to the Institute of Self Reliance ACP dashboard.

However, without a funding renewal, the tap for the ACP program is in jeopardy of running dry, potentially requiring San Diegans, as well as residents across the state and country, to bear the full cost of their internet services.

Why this is important: 

Internet Cost is at the heart of the digital divide. The digital divide represents the disparate gap between those who have ready access to the internet– and the leverage for personal and professional development it brings– versus those who do not have access. Internet inequities became pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, when societal activities were forced to go online amid global-wide lockdowns. For people unable to access affordable or accessible options, this barred rural, and lower income communities from accessing what advocates say is a “21st century civil right.”

“When we are talking about ACP running out we are not just talking about the numbers we are talking about real human people and their stories,” said Lauren Gaydes, a ACP advocate in regards to how internet loss will be detrimental to millions of Americans day to day lives.

According to studies produced by the California Emerging Technology Fund, 68% of statewide respondents stated that the internet being “too expensive” is one of the reasons why they lack a connection at home.


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