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Monday, April 22, 2024
HomeCommentaryOpen Forum: Congress Must Fund Affordable Connectivity Program

Open Forum: Congress Must Fund Affordable Connectivity Program

Editor’s Note: Senators Marvin A. Blyden and Marise C. James, as chair and vice-chair of the Committee on Housing, Transportation and Telecommunications, sent a letter Thursday to the U.S. Congress in support of extending funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households, and one-time discounts of up to $100 to purchase a computer. However, the program is expected to end this spring unless Congress appropriates additional funding. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission has begun taking steps to wind down the ACP. It projects that enrollees will continue to receive the benefit on their internet service through April. 

Dear Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, Majority Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell:

We are writing to join with thousands of state and local officials, including state governors, legislators, and over 174 mayors of cities and towns across the United States, in expressing our strong support for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and urging Congress to extend funding for this vitally important program that over 23 million families across the nation depend on in order to access affordable broadband services. As you are aware, the FCC has announced that the ACP program will terminate in April unless Congress takes action to extend funding. This would have a devastating impact on thousands of Virgin Islanders and millions of Americans, and we urge you to move expeditiously to ensure that this critically important program is allowed to continue.

There can be no doubt that access to high-speed internet is as crucial and transformative as access to electricity and telephone services were three or four generations ago. Not only is such access a determining factor in one’s ability to participate in the 21st century economy, but it is also a determining factor in being an active citizen and in fact, in preserving the health of democratic societies in this era. Despite the many changes that have taken place in the world since they were written, the words of James Madison inscribed on the Library of Congress are just as true as they were in the late 18th century: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” As such, we humbly submit the argument that the continued provision of affordable access to the internet is of critical importance to the ongoing project that we call American Democracy. Of no less importance to this project is Congress’ ability to demonstrate that it has the political will to take the actions necessary to provide for and protect the American people. The continuation of a program of such importance, and which enjoys such broad bipartisan support, would be an important and much-needed signal that our first branch of government still functions as such. We pray, for the good of all involved, that this proves to be so.

In short, the Affordable Connectivity Program is a critically important program, the continuation or failure of which will have tremendous consequences for the health of our Republic as we move forward. We urge the leaders and members of Congress to make the right choice and to take the appropriate action.

Sincerely,

Marvin A. Blyden, Chairman, and Marise C. James, Vice-Chair, Committee on Housing, Transportation & Telecommunications, 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands

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