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Opinion: Internet Access Is a Necessity for All

Almost everything we do requires Internet connectivity, from applying to a job, fulfilling work obligations, booking doctor’s appointments, banking, watching TV and even staying connected with family.

A yellow Ethernet cable plugged into a port labeled "Internet."
(TNS) — Reliable internet is a basic need for families today. In each of our careers, we have advocated for the critical need for equitable access to connectivity for all Kansas Citians, and we know that for thousands that access is made possible through government support programs. One of the most important of these is the Affordable Connectivity Program or ACP, which helps bridge the digital divide significantly. Launched during the pandemic, the ACP has provided in home internet access to more than 23 million households in the United States — including more than 400,000 in Missouri and 150,000 in Kansas — when people needed that connection most.

Almost everything we do today requires some form of online access or internet connectivity, from applying to a job or school, fulfilling work or educational obligations, booking doctor’s appointments, banking, watching TV, gaming and even just staying connected with friends and family. Reliable, affordable internet access is no longer a “nice to have” — it’s a “must have.” The ACP helps close the gap in traditionally underserved communities and addresses issues of digital equity by providing access to opportunities online.

However, even though these households have internet access now, they may not be able to keep it when funding runs out later this year. Without the additional help that ACP provides, many families, students, veterans and older adults are very much at risk of losing this essential connection. Despite being an almost universally popular bipartisan program with supporters at every level of government, no additional funding has been allocated so far to ensure the ACP’s continuation.

That means there’s a very strong likelihood that millions of people, including tens of thousands right here in Kansas City, could lose their home internet connections this year if Congress does not take immediate action. In fact, in advance of a potential program termination, the ACP stopped accepting new enrollments in early February — but it is not too late to save the program.

The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024 was introduced on Jan. 10 with bipartisan support in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. If passed, this legislation would provide the critical funding to extend the ACP through the end of the year. To date, more than 400 organizations and industry leaders have voiced their support, but our elected officials also need to hear from their constituents.

Please take a moment to contact your congressional representatives and encourage them to vote for the ACP Extension Act. For Kansas City to move forward, we can’t afford to take a step back by leaving some in our community behind.

We would like to thank Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall and Rep. Sharice Davids, Missouri Reps. Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver, and several regional chambers of commerce, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce, for indicating support of additional funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Carrie Coogan is deputy director of public affairs and community engagement at the Kansas City Public Library. Tom Esselman is executive director of Kansas City’s Digital Equity Program Office.

© 2024 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.