How a US Government Shutdown Risks Expanding the Digital Divide

Cedric Watkins is the Government Affairs Policy Advocate at Public Knowledge. Shutterstock As a government shutdown looms over the nation, millions of Americans risk losing internet access. Americans have come to rely on the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, for a $30/month broadband subsidy to stay connected to their communities. Many will be forced to go without, from families who receive Medicaid and SNAP benefits to veterans and Pell Grant recipients.  As costs for everything from housing to healthcare continue skyrocketing, families who struggle to make ends meet will have to choose between putting food on the table and having essential broadband access. Congress can easily resolve this by simply funding the program. While the program has bipartisan support, the ACP hangs in the balance because the potential government shutdown is delaying funding progress. Congress passed a short-term budget fix – a continuing resolution, commonly referred to as a CR – in September to keep the government running temporarily, and while that spending bill offers relief for millions of federal employees, government contractors, and service members who faced potential furlough, this extension won’t last long. The current CR expires on November 17, leaving Congress little time to act on an omnibus spending bill, or else the government will face another shutdown – jeopardizing the ACP and the millions of Americans who rely on it to stay connected.  As the House begins regular work again after weeks spent selecting a new speaker, Congress remains divided and will almost certainly need another…How a US Government Shutdown Risks Expanding the Digital Divide