Republicans Trying To Kill Program That Brings Affordable Broadband To The Poor

bnew

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Republicans Trying To Kill Program That Brings Affordable Broadband To The Poor​

Broadband

from the dysfunction-junction dept​

Wed, Jan 3rd 2024 05:32am - Karl Bode

Last month we noted how a program aimed at helping low income Americans afford broadband was at risk of being dismantled thanks to congressional incompetence and corruption.

The FCC program, dubbed the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), was part of the 2021 infrastructure bill. It provides low-income Americans $30 off their monthly broadband bill. 22 million Americans are currently receiving the discount. It’s a useful program, but it’s poised to run out of money in April. And efforts to continue funding it are being obstructed by the GOP, which is falsely insisting it’s “wasteful”:


“As lawmakers with oversight responsibility over the ACP, we have raised concerns, shared by the FCC Inspector General, regarding the program’s effectiveness in connecting non-subscribers to the Internet,” the lawmakers wrote. “While you have repeatedly claimed that the ACP is necessary for connecting participating households to the Internet, it appears the vast majority of tax dollars have gone to households that already had broadband prior to the subsidy.”

The complaint is misleading. The program’s primary function isn’t so much expanding broadband access (there’s a separate, $42.5 billion budget included in the infrastructure bill for that), so much as it is ensuring that broadband is affordable for struggling, low-income Americans.

As we’ve explored at length, U.S. broadband is hugely expensive due to corruption, regulatory capture, mindless consolidation, monopolization, and a lack of competition. These are all concepts the GOP has long, clearly, and very vocally supported via attacks on both corporate accountability, community-supported broadband, regulatory oversight, and any effort to rein in unchecked telecom monopoly power (note: Republicans tried to ban community-owned and operated broadband networks during the peak of the pandemic because Comcast and AT&T asked them to).

If the GOP’s attacks on the ACP succeed, 22 million Americans will suddenly be socked with a significantly higher bill. Many of these users signed up for the program (and broadband service) during the peak of COVID lockdowns to ensure their kids could attend class. Keep in mind: the lion’s share of the GOP voted against the infrastructure bill, but routinely takes credit for its benefits among local constituents.

In reality, the GOP is opposing the program because it’s popular and successful. The pretense is they’re worried about high costs (its original price tag was $14.2 billion), yet the same party routinely signs off on huge payouts to telecoms that serve no coherent purpose. Recall that AT&T alone nabbed $42 billion from the Trump era tax cuts in exchange for doing absolutely nothing. That’s on top of billions in taxpayer subsidies and regulatory favors that routinely don’t deliver what they promise.

To be clear, the ACP is not a serious, long-term fix to the problem of affordable broadband. It basically involves taking taxpayer money and throwing it at regional telecom monopolies (directly responsible for high broadband prices in the first place) so they’ll temporarily reduce their high rates. And when it was first implemented, several big ISPs like Verizon and Charter gamed the system to upcharge customers.

The real solution is cracking down on monopoly power and supporting pro-competitive policies (including support for municipal, cooperative, and utility-run broadband networks). But the FCC and Congress have been generally too corrupt and captured to do that, so this is what we got instead.

None of that means this program doesn’t provide real-world value to struggling Americans.

It’s aggressively unfair to introduce such a program during peak COVID, then rip the program out from under the feet of 22 million low-income Americans. All so the GOP can put on a hollow performance about how they’re concerned with runaway costs. Their opposition here is both performative and political, and it will come with a very real human cost.


Filed Under: ACP, affordable, Affordable Connectivity Program, broadband, fcc, high speed internet, low income
 

valet

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How can the monopoly by these big companies be broken?
 

the cac mamba

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i worked at a cable co during covid. it's just the government paying cox, comcast, ATT 30 bucks a month off of peoples bills, so i cant really sit here and call it a noble program

but definitely more proof that poor people who vote republican are fukking idiots
 
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getting rid of this program will decrease the amount of users online in multiplayer games so I am against it. Biden 2024 :salute:
 
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