Every year on November Let’s Tribute 11 ACP for Veterans, our nation pauses to honor and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served in the military Through the Affordable Connectivity Program. Veterans Day is a time to express our deepest gratitude for their unwavering commitment and the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our freedoms.
This Veterans Day, it’s not only about saluting our veterans but also ensuring they have the tools they need to thrive in the digital age. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is one such tool, offering vital support to veterans who find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.
The Digital Divide and Our Veterans:
In today’s world, access to the internet has become a necessity, offering countless opportunities for communication, education, employment, and healthcare. Unfortunately, not all veterans have equal access to these critical resources. Over 800,000 households with veterans are part of the ACP, a program designed to provide a lifeline by offering a discount of up to $30 per month for internet services in eligible households and up to $75 per month for those residing on qualifying Tribal lands.
However, statistics from 2019 reveal that 15 percent of veteran households did not have access to the internet. This digital divide is even more pronounced among veterans with lower incomes, who are less likely to have broadband access at home, primarily due to financial constraints. Bridging this gap is essential for ensuring veterans can take full advantage of the opportunities the digital world offers.
The Emergence of the Emergency Broadband Benefit:
Under President Donald Trump’s administration and in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the Emergency Broadband Benefit. This initiative significantly expanded telehealth and virtual care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA Video Connect, among other services, helped deliver healthcare to veteran patients during a time when in-person visits were challenging. Remarkably, the number of telehealth appointments offered by the Department increased by an astounding 1,831 percent from January 2020 to January 2021.
Recognizing the importance of connecting veterans and underserved communities to the internet, Congress transformed the Emergency Broadband Benefit into the Affordable Connectivity Program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This conversion marked a long-term commitment by the FCC to ensure that veterans and others remained connected to essential services like telehealth, education, and workforce development programs.
Facing Funding Challenges:
Despite its vital role, the ACP is now facing a looming funding shortfall. This puts over 800,000 veterans at risk of losing internet access or facing increased monthly bills. President Joe Biden has proposed full funding for the ACP through 2024, but Congress has not yet taken decisive action to secure this funding.
State Leaders’ Support for ACP:
State governors across the nation have recognized the immense potential of the Affordable Connectivity Program. Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia emphasizes the importance of utilizing the program to assist eligible households in the state in paying for internet access. Similarly, Governor Kate Ivy of Alabama highlights how the ACP is a valuable resource for Alabamians, providing support for internet access and devices, thus contributing significantly to eliminating coverage gaps in the state.
Recommitting to Our Veterans:
For half a century, the United States has relied on its all-volunteer military. The men and women who selflessly volunteered to protect our nation deserve more than just parades and words of thanks. This Veterans Day, our commitment to veterans should extend to the ACP, the program that keeps them connected to a brighter future.
The Affordable Connectivity Program serves as a lifeline for veterans, offering access to the opportunities and services they deserve. As we honor our veterans this Veterans Day, let’s not forget to honor our commitment to bridge the digital divide and support the ACP. It’s time to ensure that our veterans have the tools and resources they need to thrive in the digital age and beyond.