Nearly a million NYC households could lose affordable high-speed internet

May 28, 2024

Image courtesy of Billie Grace Ward on Flickr

Nearly one million New York City households could lose access to affordable high-speed internet unless funding for a vital federal program is restored. As reported by Gothamist, a new report from the Center for an Urban Future details the impact the end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) will have on the New Yorkers enrolled in the initiative. The program, which launched in 2021 and ran out of funding last month, paid a monthly credit to internet providers on behalf of customers who earn at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level or enrolled in public assistance programs. According to CUF, NYC neighborhoods with the lowest income levels saw the highest enrollment in the program.

Map courtesy of the Center for an Urban Future

Launched in 2021 as part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), the ACP provided eligible households with up to $30 in monthly subsidies to lower the cost of broadband home internet service.

In New York City, 978,977 New Yorkers received a subsidy. Nationwide, 23 million Americans enrolled in the program, which expires at the end of the month, unless Congress reauthorizes funding. According to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) survey last year, 77 percent of U.S. households said losing their ACP benefit would disrupt their service by making them change their plan or drop internet service entirely.

Biden has continued to call on Republicans in Congress to support extending funding for the ACP; the president asked for $6 billion for the program last fall, but no bill has moved forward.

Broadband access is key to escaping poverty and obtaining an education, but high costs make it inaccessible to those who need it most. In 2021, roughly 25 percent of NYC’s 8.5 million households lacked internet access, with nearly half of the poorest New Yorkers without broadband, according to Gothamist.

Courtesy of the Center for an Urban Future

According to CUF data, the program was most popular in East Harlem, a large area of the South Bronx, and in Long Island City, which contains the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing complex in the world.

Before ACP launched in 2021, East Harlem and the South Bronx were among the areas with the lowest broadband access in the five boroughs, according to data from the City Council. Roughly two-thirds of households in East Harlem and the South Bronx were enrolled in the federal program, and nearly 44 percent of all Bronx households were enrolled.

Those receiving high-speed internet through the program could lose access at the end of May, Eli Dvorkin, editorial and policy director at the Center for an Urban Future, told Gothamist. Dvorkin predicts that many households benefitting from the subsidies will cancel their internet service once bills increase.

“High speed internet is the portal to almost every opportunity that exists out there today,” Dvorkin told Gothamist. “It would be a real detriment to New Yorkers in general and to New York City’s opportunity agenda if we lose that access.”

Verizon will still offer discounted internet access for select low-income customers, while Optimum currently offers a $15-per-month offer for New Yorkers who receive financial assistance.

Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, are calling on Congress to restore funding for the program, citing its benefits in both urban and rural communities. Introduced in the House, the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act asks for $7 billion to fund the ACP; it currently has 230 co-sponsors.

The program’s expiration calls into question the status of NYC’s internet access program, Big Apple Connect. Announced in September 2022, the $90 million initiative is designed to provide high-speed internet and cable television to roughly 300,000 New Yorkers living in more than 200 of the city’s public housing developments. Big Apple Connect was criticized for being “duplicative” while the federal program was in effect.

The city’s Internet Master Plan, a program created by former Mayor Bill de Blasio to build municipal broadband infrastructure in poor neighborhoods, was nixed by Adams in 2022.


Explore NYC Virtually

More: Policy

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. J

    Why do they lose interest access?

  2. E

    I’m 78 yrs. Young. I have enjoyed using the internet. I live on a fixed income and the discount provided internet access. Has the ACP been extended? I heard Mayor Eric Adams on NY1 today discussing the possibility of an extension.
    Elba Natal