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ITIF Report Calls on Congress to Extend ACP Funding

A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation calls on Congress to take several actions to support digital equity, including sustaining funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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A report published today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) offers several policy recommendations to support digital equity, including calling on Congress to sustain funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The ACP, a federal subsidy program helping eligible households access discounted Internet service, is set to run out of funding in 2024 if action is not taken. Hundreds of organizations have voiced their support for its continuation.

In the report, Enabling Equity: Why Universal Broadband Access Rates Matter, ITIF makes three key broadband policy recommendations to improve data collection and address barriers to digital inclusion.

First, ITIF recommends continued funding for the ACP.

The report details that legislative gridlock is the greatest barrier to finding sustainable funding for any program. To find a compromise for ACP funding, the report states that a solution may involve streamlining some federal broadband programs. ITIF details that this would have the added benefit of easing administrative costs and clarifying the broadband funding program landscape.

“The ACP is well designed for this because it gives money directly to consumers to buy the plan that best suits them, provides eligible consumers with free or low-cost broadband plans, and has bipartisan support,” said Jessica Dine, a policy analyst with ITIF and author of the report, in ITIF’s announcement.

The second policy recommendation is to build economic impact analyses into broadband funding programs. The report explains that the best way to measure the success of federal programs intended to expand broadband access is by measuring the number of subscriptions generated by this funding.

And while the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has called for data on subscriptions generated by federal funding programs, few programs have provided that data. The report suggests that Congress should mandate that all programs providing broadband funding must provide data on results that includes this specific data set.

NTIA has also proposed an economic analysis of the overall impact of federal broadband programs, but subscription data will help make that analysis clearer.

The third policy recommendation is to survey households on the impact of remaining offline.

The report notes that through the NTIA’s Internet Use Survey, the agency regularly obtains data on the number of households that subscribe to broadband. However, questions for those households that remain offline focus more on barriers to getting online instead of assessing the benefits they may see by getting online.

The report details that example questions that might better assess potential benefits of getting online could include an assessment of time a household spent filling out paperwork instead of using an online form, or time spent commuting to an appointment that was available remotely.

The report concludes that because broadband helps equalize access to resources, those without a subscription can be viewed as the most important recipients. It also notes that high connectivity rates are key to digital government services and lead to economic benefits at large.

Finally, the report states that policies that help bridge the digital divide are necessary for everyone to gain the benefits of broadband.