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Nearly 200,000 CT households risk losing internet subsidies 

A federal program that reduces monthly internet bills is winding down at the end of May, absent last-minute congressional action. That has prompted concerns among advocates and low-income households enrolled in the program, including the nearly 200,000 in Connecticut.

The Affordable Connectivity Program — implemented as part of bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed in 2021 — aimed to get more people connected to the internet, particularly during the pandemic. Those who rely on the subsidy worry what it will mean for future access to health care and education.

The ACP provided discounts up to $30 a month — or up to $75 a month on qualifying tribal lands — with participating providers. It also gave a one-time $100 discount to buy a computer, laptop or tablet. People were eligible if their income was 200% or below the federal poverty line or on Medicaid, nutrition assistance programs, or free or reduced school breakfast or lunch.

April was the last month of full benefits for more than 186,000 households enrolled across Connecticut. For May, they are only getting partial subsidies. The maximum reimbursement will be $14 or $35 for qualifying tribal lands, and the connected device benefit was slashed to $47.

After May, the ACP will completely run out of money and stop providing benefits altogether. That could change if Congress passes more funding, but legislation to do so is unlikely to move fast enough before the end of the month and could stall during an election year.

One in eight households across Connecticut are receiving the federal internet subsidies. And almost half of Connecticut enrollees are adults 50 and older, according to research from AARP.

Internet access is “starting to be something for all of us – for students, for people using telehealth, for jobs, for everything under the sun – that equals necessity,” said Nora Duncan, who serves as the state director of AARP Connecticut.

Legislators in Connecticut had hoped a wide-ranging consumer protection bill could help address the federal gap.

In an initial version, Senate Bill 3 would have required certain companies to charge no more than $40 a month with minimum speed requirements. The bill passed the state Senate despite facing opposition from some lawmakers and the telecommunications industry. But the charging provision was amended and replaced with a study to be conducted on broadband access by the state’s consumer counsel office. The House debated the bill for a few hours, but did not take a vote on the final day of the legislative session earlier this month.

This article is republished with permission from CTMirror.org

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