FILIPZAJAC Technology Senators seek to extend internet subsidy with FAA amendment

Senators seek to extend internet subsidy with FAA amendment

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A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced an amendment to the must-pass legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to extend a program that provides broadband discounts to millions of Americans.

Sens. 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.) proposed an additional $6 billion in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The program has been winding down in recent months, closing enrollment and cutting the maximum subsidy available, as it has run low on funds. The Biden administration has repeatedly called on Congress to provide another $6 billion to extend the program through the end of the year.

“Our bipartisan coalition is working together to ensure families don’t get disconnected and fall into digital darkness,” Welch said in a statement.

“This bipartisan amendment contains compromises — but I will keep fighting to make sure this program continues beyond May and does not lapse,” he added. “It’s time for Congress to stop stalling.”

While the amendment would provide additional funding to extend the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), it would also place greater restrictions on which households are eligible to receive the discount.

Under the amendment, the income threshold for eligible households would be lowered from 200 percent of the federal poverty line to 135 percent, among other new restrictions.

“The ACP program’s current trajectory and cost is unsustainable,” Wicker said in a statement. “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.”

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides assistance to some 23 million households nationwide. Prior to May, eligible low-income households could receive discounts of up to $30 per month on internet service, while eligible households on tribal lands could receive discounts of up to $75 per month.

This month, the maximum monthly benefit for low-income households and households on tribal lands dropped to $14 and $35, respectively. The Biden administration also halted new enrollments in the program in early February.

The proposed funding and changes to the Affordable Connectivity Program come as part of an amendment to legislation reauthorizing the FAA.

In the face of a Friday deadline, the House approved a one-week extension Wednesday afternoon, giving Congress until May 17 to reach an agreement on the five-year FAA reauthorization bill.

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