Franklin County legislature urges Congress to continue affordable broadband program

MALONE — County legislators passed a resolution, offered from the floor, urging Congress to continue funding an affordable broadband connectivity program beyond April 2024, at a meeting this past Thursday.

Lindy Ellis, D-Saranac Lake, said the program has had a positive impact on families in Franklin County.

“I had sent out a draft of a resolution to encourage the federal government to extend funding for broadband,” Ellis said. “They established this so families who could justify the need for this would get $30 a month off of their broadband bill and this has aided over 4,000 families in Franklin County.”

According to Ellis, the program is about to expire at the federal level.

“The broadband community is asking for the county to pass this resolution so that we can request it to be extended at the federal level,” Ellis said.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is currently funded through the Federal Communications Commission, according to the county’s resolution.

In December 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act became law and established an Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund totaling $3.2 billion in the U.S. Treasury, according to the resolution, which states the intent of the funds was to help people afford internet service during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program afforded eligible households to receive a discount off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices with participating internet providers being able to receive reimbursement for offering these discounts, according to the resolution.

The program launched in May 2021 and in November 2021 the U.S. Congress created the Affordable Connectivity Program as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, offering a new long-term $14 billion program to replace the initial benefit program, and to help ensure eligible households could afford broadband connections needed for work, school and health care moving forward, according to the resolution.

As of January 2024, over 22 million households nationwide are enrolled and receiving the program’s monthly benefit, according to the resolution, which states as of November 2023, 58,982 residents across 11 North Country communities are receiving a monthly benefit totaling $1,871,697.

As of November 2023, 4,056 Franklin County residents received a total of $2,458,253 from this program towards broadband subsidies, according to the resolution, which states Feb. 7, 2024 was the last day that the program could accept new applications and enrollments.

Without additional funding from the U.S. Congress, the allotted $14.2 billion to fund the affordability program is projected to run out in April 2024, according to the resolution, which states with the monthly benefit concluding in a couple months, the 58,982 North Country households currently enrolled in this subsidy will be forced to make difficult decisions on how to cover the additional fees of essential internet service previously covered by the Affordable Connectivity Program.


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