Senior Capitol Hill Republicans Want Rosenworcel to Correct ‘Deeply Misleading’ ACP Testimony

Dec 17, 2023

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Dec. 17, 2023 – Senior Capitol Hill Republicans that oversee the communications sector say they want Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to correct “deeply misleading” testimony about a $14 billion broadband subsidy program.

According to the lawmakers, Rosenworcel told a House subcommittee on Nov. 30 that “25 million households” would be “unplug [ged]…from the Internet” if the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is allowed to sunset.

The lawmakers in a letter to Rosenworcel Friday said, “This is not true. As Congress considers the future of taxpayer broadband subsidies, we ask you to correct the hearing record and make public accurate information about the ACP.”

The lawmakers described Rosenworcel’s ACP testimony as “deeply misleading” in places and urged her to clarify her statements in a response due by Jan. 5.

The lawmakers who signed the letter were Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), chair of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

The ACP, a benefit plan run by the FCC, provides $30 monthly discounts for broadband service to eligible low-income households.

The lawmakers apparently believe that ACP money should focus on consumers who did not have Internet service prior to the program. Their letter suggests that somewhere between 16% and 22% of current ACP enrollees are first-time Internet users and are the most at-risk if ACP funding dries up.

The lawmakers alleged that Rosenworcel misled Latta's House subcommittee by indicating that all ACP participants would get cut off, which likely inflated the scope of the problem. Rosenworcel testified that the ACP law did not require broadband providers to determine whether ACP enrollees were current subscribers.

“The program’s record of targeting taxpayer subsidies to consumers who already had broadband is further apparent in the FCC’s enrollment numbers: The number of households in the ACP – approximately 22 million – far exceeds the 16 million unconnected households according to 2021 Census data,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers said the FCC’s failure to aim ACP funds at the unserved was indicative of “the Biden administration’s reckless spending spree [that] has left America’s current fiscal situation in a state of crisis, with gross debt at nearly $34 trillion.”

The ACP received $14.2 billion in federal funding to subsidize broadband for low-income households to help with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Without new funding, the ACP is expected to shut down next April.

ACP has various eligibility criteria, including that a household is eligible if household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. A household is also eligible if a member of the household received a federal Pell Grant during the current award year, according to the FCC.

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