Affordable Connectivity Program Week of Action Event
Remarks of Alan Davidson
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
New America – Washington, D.C.
June 14, 2023
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Anne-Marie. I want to thank everyone at New America, Network: On, and Public Knowledge who organized today’s event – along with our diverse and expert group of panelists and contributors.
It’s wonderful to be back at New America myself, and to be among so many of the people and organizations who’ve been contributing to the success of the Internet for All program.
Today kicks off the Biden-Harris Administration’s Affordable Connectivity Program Week of Action. We have more than 300 organizations from across the country committed to raising awareness about ACP.
Why Internet Service is Essential
To start, I’d like to discuss what’s really at stake when we talk about the Affordable Connectivity Program and Internet for All.
The Internet is now the essential tool for communications in our modern world. It is essential for access to work. Access to education. Access to healthcare. Access to justice.
And yet today, here in America, millions of people across the country lack access to an affordable high-speed Internet connection or lack the means and the skills to use it.
That’s about to change.
We have been talking about the digital divide in this country for more than 20 years. But thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we now have the resources to do something serious about it.
The law provides $65 billion in new funding to invest in a simple and ambitious mission: to connect everyone across America to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.
We are calling this initiative Internet for All, and we mean “all.”
And the ACP is at the heart of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to make the dream of Internet for All a reality.
Today, affordability is not a luxury – it is a necessity.
If we want to reach our goal of helping Americans thrive online, a connection alone is not enough. A connection to a family’s home doesn’t help that family if they can’t afford service.
Nothing illustrates the importance of an affordable connection quite like the real-world stories we’ve heard from all across the country.
Our team recently spoke with Robyn Johnson, an educator on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Robyn struggled to balance her own workload with her children’s needs on limited bandwidth. She needed a faster Internet connection, but with her husband out of work, she couldn’t afford one.
Thanks to NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, a local provider was able to offer cheaper service to families like Robyn’s. And thanks to a $75 subsidy provided under the Affordable Connectivity Program for tribal communities, Robyn and her family can afford that service. Now her children can get ahead in school—and Robyn won’t fall behind, either.
Delivering Affordable, Reliable Internet Service
Robyn’s story illustrates why ACP is so essential to ensure that millions of low-income Americans can get online.
In fact, more than 18 million households are already saving an estimated $600 million per month with this program. And we know that nearly half of all eligible households are still learning about the incredible benefits that they can receive. I am confident that as we better inform these households on the benefits of ACP, many more will sign up.
ACP is critical to connect these households and also critical for the success of our broadband infrastructure programs. People need to be able to afford to get online and providers need the certainty that they’ll have customers, especially in rural and low-income communities, before they deploy their networks.
NTIA’s BEAD program requires that participating Internet Service Providers offer a low-cost option. ACP helps ensure that providers can deliver on this requirement in all corners of the country, and ultimately meet the broader goal of connecting everyone in America to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.
But our goal of closing the digital divide is at risk because ACP is at risk of running out of money. We cannot allow this program, which has widespread support, to fail.
We see that support in so many ways. I am so grateful for President Biden’s leadership, as well as the tireless efforts of Chairwoman Rosenworcel and the entire team at the FCC. They’ve done an outstanding job to get the ACP to where it is today. And, of course, I appreciate the service providers who stepped up last year and committed to offer affordable plans.
But I am most grateful to the people in this room – for all of you - who are getting the word out to diverse communities throughout the country, ensuring that everyone can benefit from the ACP.
And now there is a new task in front of all of us: ensuring that ACP is on firm financial footing going forward. To accomplish this goal, I have two asks of you:
First, make your voices heard. Let your federal lawmakers know how important this program has been to people in your community. Make sure they understand the real-life impact that an affordable high-speed Internet connection can have. And remind them how difficult it will be to deliver that connection to everyone in the country without the help of a vital tool like the ACP.
Second, make sure Americans know about the ACP. Even as we work to put this program on firm footing, we need to make sure people use it. Let households know they can check their eligibility, sign up, and find fully covered Internet plans at GetInternet.gov. We can’t assume that people know about this program. We must provide the information and resources they need to sign up.
In closing, I would note this is a historic moment.
Generations before us brought electricity and water to rural America. They built the interstate highway system.
This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment.
This is our opportunity to connect everyone in America to the tools they need to thrive in the modern digital economy.
It’s going to take a lot of work. We need everyone to do their part.
Thank you for your partnership.
And I look forward to working with all of you, to make this dream of Internet for All a reality at last.