Millions of Americans could soon lose home internet access

Millions of Americans could soon lose home internet access unless lawmakers act quickly to reverse course.

Each week, Cynthia George connects with her granddaughter and great-grandson via video calls. At 71 years old, this retiree reads news headlines on MSN homepage while searching for information to battle bugs coming through drain in Florida summer heat. Cynthia searches Publix app deals so her food stamps go further.

But the great-grandmother fears her lifeline to the outside world could soon be severed, forcing her to make a difficult choice between buying enough food or paying her home internet bill.

George is just one of millions of Americans facing an unthinkably catastrophic yet little-known financial cliff, an event policy experts warn is only avoidable through swift congressional action.

By May, more than 23 million US households could either lose access to internet plans they currently subscribe to, or face increased bills with hundreds more owed in order to stay online, according to estimates released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Disaster could strike 1 out of every 5 households nationwide and affect nearly 60 million American, according to estimates by the Census Bureau.

Such widespread internet disruption would cripple people’s abilities to complete schoolwork, seek and find employment, see their doctor online for virtual visits or refill prescriptions online, access public services or remain connected – further widening the digital divide and leading to economic instability on an unprecedented scale.

“I must account for every penny” The crisis stems from a critical government program expected to run dry at the end of April: Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), providing discounts of up to $30 monthly internet service discounts to qualifying low-income households or up to $75 for eligible recipients on tribal lands.

Lawmakers have known about an impending deadline for months; yet Congress remains incapable of passing a $6 billion appropriation that President Joe Biden says would renew and save millions from disaster in America’s Affordable Care Plan (ACP).

Last week, congressional leaders missed what advocates claim was their last, best legislative opportunity for funding ACP: an 11th hour budget deal designed to avert government shutdown. Unfortunately, bill text released this week did not contain funding for this vital program, potentially increasing risk and leading to emergency financial distress for millions months before an important 2024 election takes place.

With time running out for ACP, the FCC has begun winding it down — stopping new enrollment and informing users their benefits will soon be suspended.

“Due to political gamesmanship, about 60 million American will face tough choices between paying for internet service or paying their food and utility bills – widening the digital divide across our nation,” stated former top FCC official Gigi Sohn. It’s disgraceful that an effective bipartisan program with support from nearly half of Congress could come crashing to an end because of politics rather than policy considerations, she concluded.

Without government aid, low-income Americans like George would likely be priced out of home internet service and the prospect of losing this essential component to modern economies has sent ACP subscribers reeling; many told CNN they feel disillusioned that Congress failed to step in when necessary to prevent losing an essential utility through inaction.

George laughed ruefully: “My grandkids tease me; they think I’m cheap! To which I reply that Grandma is thrifty; no other choice exists as accounting for every cent means taking some cost cutting measures like cutting back my food bill if necessary – there would otherwise be nowhere else I can take this money from!”

Military families, older Americans and rural residents are most at risk under this program, which was implemented quickly following Congress’ establishment of it through bipartisan infrastructure law in 2021. Polling shows it to be enormously popular with both political parties – an indication of its great success.

According to both the White House and a survey backed by Comcast, military families account for roughly 50% of ACP subscriber base.

According to another survey conducted on ACP users, more than one quarter live in rural areas; four out of ten enrolled households can be found in southern United States alone. Over sixty five percent of survey participants said that without ACP they feared losing their job; three quarters expressed concerns over online health services disappearing, and more than eighty percent believe their kids will lag in school due to losing access.

At least 20% of those participating in ACP are age 65 or above; over 10 million American’s who use the program are at least 50.

Michelle McDonough, 49, lives off Social Security disability payments while working part time as an associate degree behavioral health student in Maine. One statistics class stands between her and receiving her associate’s degree – not only does she attend classes remotely via video conferencing software but she even visits with an on-call psychiatrist via virtual visits!

McDonough anticipates similar reductions