736,000 PA households could lose crucial help on their internet bills

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as he announces a $42 billion investment in high-speed internet infrastructure during an event in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2023 in Washington, DC. The investment is part of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package and part of the administration's goal to connect all Americans to high-speed broadband by 2030. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

April 18, 2024

Time is running out for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides low-cost high speed internet access for over 736,000 Pennsylvania households. The program is set to expire at the end of April if House Republicans don’t act.

Democratic congressional lawmakers from Pennsylvania are sounding the alarm on the future of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides low-cost, high-speed internet access for millions of Americans.

“This is a critically important program that we are here to discuss. It’s helped 22 million Americans save on their monthly internet bills,” Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday.

“We are living in a digital age. Having internet access is no longer a luxury. It is as important as electricity and plumbing.”

Over 736,000 Pennsylvania households save between $30 to $75 every month on their internet bills thanks to the ACP, and according to the Biden administration, many Pennsylvania households’ internet bills are fully covered by the ACP due to the administration working with internet providers.

“If Republicans allow this program to expire, that would be like imposing a $55 million tax increase on my constituents.” Congressman Dwight Evans said. “That’s why a monthly discount of $30 or $75 makes a real difference for the many families in my district.”

The ACP was created under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and provided $14.2 billion in federal funding to modify and extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and create the current program, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

President Joe Biden has been working with Republicans since the fall to extend the program, but House Resolution 6929, which would extend the program by giving it $7 billion, has been sitting dormant in the US House Appropriations Committee since January.

House Democrats launched a discharge petition on Monday to try and force Republicans to schedule a vote. The bill has 223 cosponsors with 202 Democrats and 21 Republicans supporting it.

Using a discharge petition to force a vote on a bill is an extremely labor intensive process. A bill has to sit in committee for 30 legislative days—or days where the House has convened—in order to be eligible for a discharge petition, and House members have to obtain a simple majority in order to start the process.

“Discharge petitions are not the easiest thing to get done or to get things moving on,”Wild said. “But I will say in this Congress, unfortunately it seems to be something that we’re going to end up relying on more and more often.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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