Op-Ed | Congress must permanently fund the Affordable Connectivity Program and bridge the digital divide


In our rapidly digitizing world, internet access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for New Yorkers to reach educational resources, job opportunities, healthcare services, and community connections. Every month, roughly 1.8 million New Yorkers rely on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal broadband subsidy targeted towards our most vulnerable communities, to help pay for this necessity. Over 1 million more New Yorkers are eligible for the ACP but have yet to sign up, an adoption gap that has continued to close as city and state leaders double down on efforts to reach New Yorkers where they are, through trusted providers, to join the digital age.

Despite ACP’s overwhelming success, the program is at risk. According to current estimates, funding for the program that 21 million Americans already rely on for affordable Internet connection will be depleted as early as spring 2024, jeopardizing this important tool for those who need internet access the most. 

Earlier this month, the White House requested $6 billion in additional funding for the ACP through the end of 2024. The President’s request is a huge step forward – now it’s time for Congress to act, not just to extend funding in the next year but to make the ACP a permanent program that connects New Yorkers to essential resources for generations.

I urge New York’s Congressional delegation to take action to include funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program in the next appropriations bill. But we can’t stop there: Congress must also begin to develop a sustainable long term solution for ensuring all Americans can continue to have internet access.

The ACP’s impact has been enormous, removing the cost barrier for more than 21 million households nationwide to access the Internet. During the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, the ACP’s predecessor, ensured students could attend virtual classes and parents could job search from home. Now with the ACP, New Yorkers, especially those in underserved communities, can have the resources they need to pursue a proper education and job opportunities without needing to leave the home.

The importance of reliable, high-speed internet access goes beyond these immediate benefits. It is a prerequisite for New York City’s tech sector to become more diverse and inclusive. At Tech:NYC, we’ve seen firsthand how technology has the potential to transform lives and drive economic growth. But for this transformation to be truly inclusive, we must ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of their background or neighborhood, have the opportunity to participate in the digital economy.

Without universal access to high-speed internet, we risk leaving behind potential innovators and entrepreneurs who may be residing in underserved communities, stifling the growth of our tech ecosystem. Continued ACP funding is crucial to leveling the playing field, encouraging diversity, and fostering innovation in the city’s tech sector.

Funding the Affordable Connectivity Program for 2024 and ensuring its permanence is an investment in our city’s, and our nation’s, future. As the President calls to extend funding for the ACP, all eyes turn towards Congress to ensure New Yorkers can continue to enjoy the transformative benefits of affordable and reliable internet access. I encourage New York’s Congressional delegation and their colleagues across the country to fight for a permanent ACP so we can create a more connected and inclusive New York that sets an example for the entire nation.

Julie Samuels is the president and executive director of Tech:NYC.