Opinion: Protect affordable internet access for Granite Staters 50-plus


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Published: 03-13-2024 6:00 AM

Christina FitzPatrick of Bow is AARP NH State Director. Visit aarp.org/ACP for more information.

It’s not hard to understand why a program that connects lower income Granite Staters to the internet has improved their quality of life. Without access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet, and the digital skills needed to use it, too many older New Hampshire residents are not able to fully participate in today’s economy.

They risk missing out on opportunities like online learning, accessing important services, and keeping social connections crucial to their well-being. They can’t shop online for essentials like groceries and may not be able to virtually see their doctors or health care specialists, who may be located miles away.

Unfortunately, the lack of accessible and affordable high-speed internet also serves as a barrier for many who find themselves increasingly isolated and without many options for maintaining these vital connections.

That’s why AARP fought for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP); a federal program designed to help eliminate some of the financial barriers to high-speed internet access. The ACP provides internet discounts of up to $30 a month for qualifying households, or up to $75 for those living on tribal lands. Right now, almost more than 38,000 New Hampshire households receive a discount on their internet bill thanks to the ACP. And nearly half of those households are age 50-plus.

But now this important program is in jeopardy. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and internet service providers are already beginning to wind down the program by contacting enrollees. The good news is there is bipartisan support for extending the ACP. But unless Congress acts now to continue funding for the ACP, it will run out of funding in April 2024. Those who are currently enrolled in the program will no longer receive a discount on their internet bill.

Losing the discount would be a serious hardship for ACP recipient Thelma Hall who lost her job because of an injury and lost her internet service because she had no income to pay her bill. Because of the program, Thelma has access to e-mail to communicate with family and friends and can make doctor’s appointments, shop for groceries, and take classes.

Time is running out to protect 38,000 Granite State households from losing their internet access. Without this program, many lower income residents will lose their internet access and be cut off from jobs, medical appointments, friends, and family. That’s why AARP is urging Congress to support the bipartisan bills to fund the ACP and help adults 50+ access affordable and reliable high-speed internet.

Residents who are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program now are encouraged to contact their internet service providers or call the ACP Support Center at (877) 384-2575 to learn more about how this could affect them.