October 19, 2022

Congressman Schiff Urges FCC to Expand Access to Affordable Laptops, Computers, and Tablets for Low-Income Households

Affordable Connectivity Program Subsidizing High-Speed Internet Should Prioritize Helping Eligible Participants Obtain Discounted Devices

Today, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the FCC calling for aggressive action to increase access to affordable laptops, computers, and tablets – in addition to high-speed internet access – so more low-income households can take advantage of a new federal government program that subsidizes high-speed internet.

In December 2021, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides low-income households with a monthly $30 subsidy for high-speed internet, as well as $100 to purchase a device like a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. The program is funded by the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and works in partnership with some of the country’s largest internet service providers to provide the discounted services.

However, participating ISPs are not required to also offer the devices at the subsidized rate, hampering many households and families’ ability take full advantage of the program. To date, fewer than 10% of those ISPs are offering the discount, which may be contributing to lagging enrollment.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of internet accessibility and high-speed broadband. We have seen our fellow Americans struggle to keep up with work, school, and relationships because of their lack of access to the internet. We also understand that access to the internet can help end cycles of poverty and is a critical part to ensuring upward mobility in our country. Our government should strive to make the internet available, accessible, and affordable to all Americans,” Schiff said in the letter.

In the letter, Schiff urged the FCC to take additional action to ensure that ISPs offer the discounted devices, which would allow participants to take full advantage of the subsidized internet services, in the hopes of increasing enrollment and awareness of the critical program to bridge the digital divide.

The letter is supported by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Human-I-T, Digitunity, and Compudopt.

Click here to read the full letter or read the full text below:

Dear Chair Rosenworcel:

I am writing to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take further action on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the new partnership with Internet Service Providers (ISPs). I am pleased to see the FCC’s focus on bridging the digital divide, and I want to ensure that the device component of the Affordable Connectivity Program is prioritized from the start.

The pandemic has shown the importance of internet accessibility and high-speed broadband. I have seen my fellow Americans struggle to keep up with work, school, and relationships because of their lack of access to the internet. I also understand that access to the internet can help end cycles of poverty and is a critical part to ensuring upward mobility in our country. Our government should strive to make the internet available, accessible, and affordable to all Americans.

The Biden Administration recently announced a partnership with ISPs to strengthen the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides eligible households with a monthly $30 subsidy for an internet service plan. I am glad to see that this public-private partnership has allowed some of the biggest ISPs to make high-speed plans available for $30, rendering the plan free for those in the Affordable Connectivity Program. I commend the FCC and the White House on this program, as it is a critical step towards bringing the internet to all Americans.

In addition to subsidized plans, one notable piece of the ACP is that eligible households can receive a discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. I have met with local organizations working to connect Americans to the ACP, and they have relayed that the device discount has incentivized people to get their discounted, or in some cases free, internet service. I believe that the device portion of the ACP is critical, as many households need devices to be able to benefit from their own subsidized internet plans.

The device discount is not required in the ACP program, so it is up to the individual ISPs to procure and provide the discounted devices. I understand that fewer than 10% of the participating ISPs are offering a discounted device as allowed by ACP.

I believe that there is an opportunity for the FCC to further ensure the device program is operating successfully. I also recognize that the ACP provides a chance for ISPs to partner with local, sustainable companies to bring recycled products to those who need them, while signing people up for high-speed internet.

I ask the FCC to answer the following questions:

  • What is the FCC doing to ensure partner ISPs participating in the ACP are offering devices to those who sign up?
  • Will the FCC monitor how many devices these ISPs give with the Affordable Connectivity Program? How will those numbers be reported?
  • Will the FCC tie ACP performance metrics on devices to how ISPs comply with this portion of the program?
  • Will the FCC commit to helping ISPs partner with recycled tech companies to make the process as environmentally sustainable as possible?
  • What can Congress do to help bolster the ACP and aid local partnerships?

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Adam B. Schiff

###