By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday will stop accepting new enrollments for a government broadband internet subsidy program, used by nearly 23 million American households, which is set to run out of money in months.
“The enrollment freeze is necessary to slow the depletion of the remaining funding and reduce volatility in the program,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel wrote Congress last week saying after that the commission will finalize the projected end date of the program absent new funding from lawmakers.
Congress previously allocated $17 billion to help lower-income families and people impacted by COVID-19 to gain internet access through a $30 per month voucher to use toward internet service.
The White House in October asked for $6 billion to extend the program through December 2024 but Congress has not acted. The FCC says there is insufficient funding to support government subsidies beyond April.
The White House says the program known as the Affordable Connectivity Program, helps current users save over $500 million per month on their internet bills. Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, have all called for Congress to extend the program.
Bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Peter Welch, JD Vance, Jacky Rosen and Kevin Cramer would provide $7 billion for the program and similar legislation has been introduced in the House.
“Let us continue the program, find the $7 billion that is necessary to maintain this, and make sure that the progress we’ve made working together to build out high-speed internet and make it accessible to all our citizens continues,” Welch said.
Rosenworcel added the “households will lose an important benefit and are at risk of losing the internet service they rely on for work, school, health care and more.”
The FCC cited a survey that if the program ends more than three quarters of the households in the program “would experience service disruption or would have to change their existing plan or stop service altogether.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Aurora Ellis)