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Connecticut Residents Bracing for Loss of ACP Subsidiary

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides $30-a-month subsidies and requires Internet providers to offer packages as low as $30 a month to those households to make it more affordable to needy families.

Shutterstock/Wangkun Jia
(TNS) — The clock is ticking on an federal internet subsidy that affects about 5,000 East Hartford households.

The year-old Affordable Connectivity Program, made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Federal Communications Commission, provides $30-a-month subsidies and requires internet providers to offer packages as low as $30 a month to those households to make it more affordable to needy families.

But unless the federal government acts soon, the program could go away by the end of April.

U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, visited Raymond Public Library on Thursday afternoon to let its staff and members of the town's Coalition for Digital Equity know that he and others in Washington, D.C., are working to make sure the program gets funding for this year and expand it into more homes in the future.

"If all houses don't have it, we are missing the boat," Larson, a native of East Hartford, said. "It's a money-maker and will help us continue to lead the world. This is a public goal and objective."

According to the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the program currently serves 23.2 million households in the U.S. Most participants, officials said, earn less than $20,000 individually and less than $40,000 for a family of four. If the program ends and participants haven't canceled their service contract before that date, Benton Institute officials predict that those who stay on will be collectively on the hook for $700 million a month nationally.

Kyle Rosado, who left his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and has lived in East Hartford for four years, said he had no internet service as a child being raised by a single mother and grandmother. But his life changed once he had access to the internet, which he used to refine his English language skills, learn about himself, and just have as a resource.

"I had access to one of the world's most powerful tools and that's not hyperbole," Rosado said.

Following his remarks to the public, Larson said that part of the problem in Washington is that there is a lack of knowledge among politicians about the importance of keeping the ACP program going forward and expanding from the current $4 billion investment to $7 billion, which he expects to "go down to the wire and beyond" to secure the funding.

The battle, he said, is convincing colleagues who believe that checking out a book at the library will have the same effect as the internet subsidy program.

East Hartford Library Director Sarah Kline Morgan said that the impact of the program can be seen in the reduction of the number of library visits by people in need of the internet to search for jobs, work on school projects, and learn.

But she's not sure the library will necessarily see more visits if the program ends because they might lose the trust of their clients who signed up for the Affordable Connectivity Program only to see it end quickly.

© 2024 The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.