Luján, Bipartisan Coalition Introduce Amendment to Strengthen Affordable Connectivity Program


On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2023 to strengthen the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), complete the equipment removal of China-based companies, Huawei and ZTE, and allow the FCC to reauction certain spectrum licenses to create more responsive networks for consumers.

Access to broadband provides vital connections to education, health care and economic opportunity. Congress has established programs to increase broadband access through the Universal Service Fund, including the Lifeline and the High-Cost programs. In 2021, Congress established the ACP and the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program to further improve broadband access and affordability. The Affordable Connectivity Program, which currently helps more than 23 million households connect to affordable broadband, will expire in May without congressional action.

The amendment:

· Sec. 1401: Provides an additional $3.08 billion to the “rip and replace program” in the Secure and Trusted Communications Act of 2019

· Sec. 1402: Provides $6 billion to the Affordable Connectivity Program and modernizes eligibility and verification to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse

· Sec. 1403: Requires the FCC to reauction certain spectrum licenses for unassigned spectrum that the Commission has previously auctioned

Right now, there are over 23 million households participating in this program, that’s more than 55 million people. But it's not only benefiting these individual families—it's benefiting their local communities as well. It gives families access to better-paying jobs, to training and education to create economic mobility, to better deals on groceries and household goods. The time is now to save this program, said Senator Luján, Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband.It’s also critical that we adequately fund the “rip-and-replace” program to ensure our country can move forward the effort to remove and replace untrusted technological equipment. This amendment also empowers the FCC to reauction spectrum licenses to free up airwaves and allow more opportunities for the public to access faster internet speeds and more responsive networks.”

"Millions of Ohioans rely on the Affordable Connectivity Program for access to online schooling, reaching medical professionals, and other essential tasks. That’s why I’m doing all that I can to ensure the ACP has the funding it needs. I’m proud to introduce this amendment with Senator Luján because it reflects a bipartisan consensus of the Senate. I look forward to getting this done," said Senator Vance.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is an essential tool to keep millions of families, seniors and veterans connected to the high-speed internet that powers the modern economy. Our bipartisan coalition is working together to ensure families don’t get disconnected and fall into digital darkness,said Senator Welch.This bipartisan amendment contains compromises — but I will keep fighting to make sure this program continues beyond May and does not lapse. It’s time for Congress to stop stalling.”

“In a state as large as Nevada, access to high-speed internet is a critical lifeline for families to access telemedicine, complete school work, and even run a business. The Affordable Connectivity Program that I helped create has helped more than 275,000 Nevada families access affordable high-speed internet,said Senator Rosen.I’ve been working across the aisle to continue funding for this critical program so that hardworking Nevada families don’t lose internet access. That’s why I’m proud to support this bipartisan amendment to ensure ACP funding can continue.”

The ACP program’s current trajectory and cost is unsustainable. We have warned the Biden administration this day would come. That is why I have been fighting to reform the program before it is extended. This tailored legislation will help connect the Mississippians that need broadband access the most to the American dream,” said Senator Wicker.

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