Luján Holds Hearing on Future of Broadband Affordability

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, convened a subcommittee hearing titled “The Future of Broadband Affordability” to examine the state of broadband affordability programs, the impact of a potential lapse or end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and ways to address existing shortfalls in broadband affordability programs.

Access to broadband provides vital connections to education, health care and economic opportunity. Congress has established programs to increase broadband access through the Universal Service Fund, including the Lifeline and the High-Cost programs. More recently, Congress established the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program to further improve broadband access and affordability. The Affordable Connectivity Program, which currently helps more than 23 million households connect to affordable broadband, will expire in May without congressional action.

The hearing witnesses included:

  • Jennifer Case Nevarez, Director and Lead Educator, Community Learning Network; Member of the Broadband and Digital Equity Support Team for New Mexico and the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion
  • Kathryn de Wit, Project Director, Broadband Access Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Blair Levin, Policy Advisor, New Street Research; Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Metro
  • Dr. Paul Winfree, President and CEO, Economic Policy Innovation Center

Video of the hearing is available HERE

An excerpt of Senator Luján’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

The people who rely on the Affordable Connectivity Program to connect with health care providers, attend work or school, or access their benefits—they are no less deserving than anyone else.

There are still many areas across the country where families have no options for high-quality broadband service. That’s why we worked together to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which included the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program to buildout broadband networks in regions of our country that have until now been left behind.

But building the network isn’t the end of the story—we have to make sure that people can afford to access it. This is why we created the Affordable Connectivity Program, to help low-income families afford internet service by contributing a $30 per month benefit.

Right now, there are over 23 million households participating in this program, that’s more than 55 million people. But it’s not only benefiting these individual families—it’s benefiting their local communities as well.

A study from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society published last month found that every dollar that we put into ACP returns nearly two dollars in impact for the recipient of the benefit. It gives families access to better-paying jobs, to training and education to create economic mobility, to better deals on groceries and household goods. It means stimulating our local economies.

The time is now to save this program. The last full month of funding for ACP was April—this month, each household will only receive a partial benefit. If Congress fails to act, that will be the end of the Affordable Connectivity Program.



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