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Affordable Connectivity Program that helped 450K Kentuckians likely to remain a thing of the past

Corinne Boyer
Despite lobbying from Gov. Beshear to restore funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, just one Kentucky member of Congress has co-sponsored a bill that would do so.

Vickie’s two dogs are a bit barky, but friendly, once you get in the door of the Versailles home she shares with her daughter and two granddaughters. She prefers her last name not to be used in this story.

“Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”

We meet not long after she – and likely many other Kentuckians – learned the subsidy they’ve received via the Affordable Connectivity Act – or ACP – was about to end. Vickie says she signed up last spring after calling her internet service provider about a bill that was much higher than expected.

“And it wasn't just Internet, it had Internet, cable, landline, it was like this 100 and something dollar bill. And so I called to straighten that out and the person I talked to said, ‘I think you qualify for the credit.’ And sure enough I did.”

That’s when she started getting a $30 monthly credit. She uses Internet to work at home one day a week and, with her family, watch movies and other shows on a couple different streaming services. She says she’ll be able to keep Internet service, despite the ACP’s exit.

“Right now, that doesn't seem like such a big thing, $30 more a month, I've probably already canceled $30 worth of other stuff.”

She says she’s ordering less online lately, and recently dropped one of her streaming services.

Governor Andy Beshear’s none too pleased about the end of the ACP. In February, he used a portion of his weekly Team Kentucky address to say Kentuckians were about to lose $13 million in monthly savings if nothing was done.

“That's $13 million every month that helps our families, many of which are living on the margins, to afford the Internet access that allows them to start their own business, to further their education, so many important tools like healthcare that that are provided, oftentimes through the Internet.”

Beshear said he wrote a letter to Kentucky’s Congressional delegation, urging them to pass legislation to continue the ACP. Three months later, the only Democrat, Representative Morgan McGarvey, was the only member to cosponsor a bill that would extend the ACP. None of them responded to a request from WEKU for an interview or comment.

The ACP dates back to the pandemic. In May of ’21, the Federal Communications Commission oversaw the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which provided up to $50 a month for home Internet bills. The ACP replaced it at the end of that year, reducing most subsidies to $30 a month, but providing a one-time, $100 credit for devices.

Kentucky Education Department Technology Chief David Couch says for parents of schoolchildren, statistics show something up an upside to the downside of the ACP’s departure.

“We've now gotten a snapshot right before the pandemic during and then now and basically the ACP program made close to zero difference. As far as families that didn't have Internet before getting it through ACP, you know, to go from 95 percent connected to 95.5.”

Couch says many low-income Kentuckians don’t know their Internet service provider may have discounted rates – or about the federal Landline program that offers a $10 monthly credit, albeit with lots of paperwork.

Back at Vickie’s house, she and a granddaughter walk outside to check on their chickens – two Silkie hens and a matching rooster. She says she’s economizing – and so are the chickens.

“I've changed my whole way of shopping. And for groceries. Just because everything's so expensive, trying to get eggs from the chickens in the backyard. And they were laying like crazy. And now they've gone on strike, not getting any eggs from them.”

She says she’s fortunate. She can afford to maintain Internet service, but says Congress should do something for people who can’t.

“When you consider all the money that they spend, it doesn't seem, and I know there are a lot of people that $30 is going to make the big difference, you know, they're not gonna have Internet without that help with a bill.”

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John McGary is a Lexington native and Navy veteran with three decades of radio, television and newspaper experience.
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