ACP Poised to Expire as Rural Internet Prices Rise

Andreas Rivera
May 17, 2024
Icon Time To Read2 min read

As of mid-May, Congress has declined to renew funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which has helped low-income families nationwide afford dependable internet service since its start in 2022. This is bad news for those households, especially as rural internet prices go up. 

The ACP, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), gives qualifying households a $30 discount on their internet bill from a participating provider. Those on qualifying Tribal Lands could get a $75 discount. Most major providers participated in the program, allowing millions of Americans to sign up for the discount. 

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Since no new funding was allocated for the program, providers were forced to stop accepting new applicants in early February. By the end of May, customers on the program, including those in rural areas, will see their internet bills increase. This is especially frustrating for satellite internet customers, who pay higher-than-average monthly fees for slower services compared to traditional broadband. 

It’s unfortunate timing, as the three major satellite internet providers have seen recent price jumps. In March, Viasat simplified its offerings by consolidating several packages into one plan called Viasat Unleashed, which starts at $99.99 per month. While the new Unleased plan bucked the two-year contract and priority data cap, it no longer offers its cheaper plans, which started at $49.99 per month. 

Hughesnet’s cheapest and mid-range plans are unchanged, but the Fusion plan, which provides lower latency internet through a fixed-wireless connection, increased by $10 in April and dropped the first-year discount of $30 to $25. 

Around mid-May, Starlink customers on Reddit shared emails from SpaceX that their $90 per month rate for the Standard plan was increasing to $120. The message explained that because the customer was in an area with limited capacity, their monthly rate was increasing by $30, while customers in areas with excess capacity were eligible to decrease their rate by $30. The price increase will be applied by June 10. Starlink does not list on its site where these areas are or how they designate them as such. Additionally, customers who were supposedly eligible for the discounted rate and had the option in their account were informed shortly after by Starlink that it was an account issue and that their rate would remain the same, creating confusion and frustration. 

Starlink does not currently participate in the ACP. In December 2023, SpaceX’s VP of Satellite Policy, David Goldman, indicated during a webcast roundtable that they had plans to join the program. However, in light of the program winding down, not to mention SpaceX and the FCC's frequent clashes, there has been no official announcement.

As Congress continues to delay renewing funding for the ACP, with the real possibility that it won’t get funded at all, low-income households in rural areas may consider exploring all of their options for internet providers in their area. will continue covering the ongoing ACP issues in Congress and what it means for rural internet users. 

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