US Affordable Connectivity Program is Closing the Digital Divide

John B. Horrigan is a Benton Senior Fellow and a national expert on technology adoption, digital inclusion, and evaluating the outcomes and impacts of programs designed to promote communications technology adoption and use. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on lowering costs and expanding access to the internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program, part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Monday, May 9, 2022, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (White House Photo/Adam Schultz) In the wake of the Biden Administration’s request for a $6 billion extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), some in Congress question the program’s true impact on bringing broadband access to new users. Critics have pointed to a lack of data confirming whether the program’s impressive enrollment figures translate into a meaningful increase in internet access for previously disconnected individuals. Admittedly, the data was sparse until now. As policymakers consider the future of the ACP program, my new analysis of program enrollment and broadband adoption data demonstrates that the program effectively meets its primary mission: closing the digital divide. ACP enrollment rates have been robust since the program’s inception at the beginning of 2022. Through October of 2023, 21.5 million households have enrolled in the program, which means that approximately 18% of US households with broadband subscriptions rely on the subsidy. ACP sign-ups have been particularly strong in places where poverty rates are high, and are notably the same in urban and rural areas. Enrollment is also higher than expected in areas with households headed…US Affordable Connectivity Program is Closing the Digital Divide