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'Open' to 'Constructive Ideas'

GOP ACP Extension Act Backer 'Confident' in Overcoming Hill Opposition

Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act (HR-6929) GOP co-sponsor Rep. Marc Molinaro of New York acknowledged Tuesday that Republican opponents of stopgap funding for ACP are an impediment, but one the bill’s backers can overcome. HR-6929 and Senate companion S-3565 would allocate $7 billion for ACP, keeping it alive through FY 2024 (see 2401100056). The FCC froze ACP enrollments last week in keeping with procedures for winding down the program absent more federal funding.

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For every good idea, there’s plenty of opposition,” Molinaro told reporters during a news conference Tuesday. “I’m confident we can overcome” hurdles that could impede progress on ACP funding before the program’s winddown. “We’ve heard" concerns Republican leaders on the House and Senate Commerce committees have about allocating ACP more money without simultaneously revamping the program’s rules and administration (see 2312210074). Yet “our goal is to continue to push for the program as is,” he said: “If there are constructive ideas, certainly we’re open to them.” Molinaro cited National Association of Counties members, who just wrapped up the group’s annual Washington, D.C., meeting, as crucial to “reaching out to Republican and Democrat members who may have expressed some concerns” with stopgap funding.

We are working every day to move” HR-6929/S-3565 “independently,” he said. However, “if there's a means to move it” by attaching it to an FY24 appropriations package still under negotiation, “we’re committed to that as well,” Molinaro said. He would like to see a deal reached -- the “sooner the better” -- but “we've got a little bit of time to take those steps to get the bill over the finish line ahead” of ACP’s expiration. Many small ISPs participating in ACP “need the volume and the customer base” of households in the program “to stay afloat,” he said: If they lose those subscribers, then even households in communities where only the small ISPs provide broadband service “may not have access either.”

Already I have people calling me saying ‘They're telling me I'm not going to be able to keep my internet’” and “‘I'm not going to be able to afford it’” without the ACP subsidy, said HR-6929 co-sponsor Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., a House Communications Subcommittee member. “Millions of families” have “come to depend upon this. It's their connection to so many things.” It’s “taken years" to enroll the 23 million households who receive an ACP subsidy, said NACo First Vice President James Gore, a Sonoma County, California, supervisor. “If we lose this” now, it will be a “travesty.”