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County Leaders Lobby for Extension of Affordable Internet

Members of the National Association of Counties were in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to extend funding for a program providing subsidies to help low-income households afford broadband Internet service.

U.S. Rep. Norma Torres joins members of the National Association of Counties to urge Congress to pass an extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program.
U.S. Rep. Norma Torres joins members of the National Association of Counties to urge Congress to pass an extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Image courtesy of Rep. Norma Torres (via X)
County leaders last week urged Congress to extend a subsidy that helps low-income families afford broadband.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a subsidy of $30 to $75 a month for broadband, helps to fund Internet access in more than 22 million homes nationwide, and is set to expire in April. County leaders were in Washington, D.C., last week to lobby members of Congress to extend the program, which has stopped accepting new enrollees.

“Our residents have to have continued, reliable and affordable access to high-speed Internet,” said James Gore, vice president for the National Association of Counties (NACo), a county supervisor from Sonoma County, Calif. Gore was speaking at a Feb. 13 press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

“The continued and sustained funding for this program ... is absolutely necessary, for the present and for the future of our communities, and especially those most in need,” he added.

Speakers at the press conference urged Congress to approve the ACP Extension Act, which would provide $7 billion to continue funding the program.

“It’s critically important, because most of the people who benefit from the ACP are struggling with income — they may be seniors; half of those who benefit from the ACP are military families. So you’re talking families, small businesses, farmers, seniors, all across this country, in urban centers, in suburban communities, in rural communities,” said Rep. Marc Molinaro, (R-N.Y.).

The issue of Internet connectivity remains a central concern among local, county, state and tribal governments. The infrastructure legislation, signed into law two years ago, made some $42.45 billion available for expanding broadband infrastructure, under what’s known as the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. The effort to expand broadband infrastructure is especially acute in rural areas.

Distances in rural Inyo County, Calif., “are measured in hours, rather than miles," said County Supervisor Jeff Griffiths.

“Access to services that may be quite common and easily accessible in urban areas are often difficult, expensive and out of the reach of ordinary working families,” said Griffiths. “Remote and disadvantaged communities often get left behind, as well as our tribal communities.”

Internet connectivity is a vital public utility all residents should have access to, the county officials stressed, calling attention to the modern-day reality that work, school, government services and health care all depend on connectivity.

“Funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program is a moral imperative. It’s akin to the electrification of the country in the 1930s, the establishment of the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s,” said Molinaro.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.