In a demonstration of the bipartisan support for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), panelists discussed why conservatives should support renewing funding.
On September 12, NaLA attended the R Street Institute event “The Conservative Case for the Affordable Connectivity Program” on Capitol Hill at the Rayburn House Office Building. The discussion focused on why conservatives should support the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and what a pathway to additional funding could look like.
The event opened with a fireside chat between former FCC Commissioner Mike O’Reilly and Luke Hogg, Director of Outreach at the Foundation for American Innovation. In his remarks, O’Reilly called the ACP a successful program that allows for market competition across rural, urban, and suburban communities.
“This is not about Republicans or Democrats, not about Red or Blue,” O’Reilly said in response to a question about the current debates to renew ACP funding. “This is something felt in every district and important for all Americans.”
The former Commissioner expressed worries about the future of broadband if ACP were to run out of funding, arguing that the best path forward is to address short-term budgetary needs. As that happens, he said, conservatives will be able to have broader conversations about reforming the Universal Service Fund (USF) and other programs.
Following their conversation, Shane Tews, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, moderated a conversation with R Street’s Jonathan Cannon; Edward Longe, Director at the James Madison Institute’s Center for Technology and Innovation; Jeffrey Westling, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy at the American Action Forum; and Bartlett Cleland, Executive Director at the Innovation Economic Alliance.
Panelists shared their perspectives on how and why conservatives are pushing for ACP renewal. According to Cannon, “one of the things most desirable to us conservatives is that [ACP] is a market-driven approach,” calling it, “game-changing.”
Westling agreed, adding that “if you want to get the most bang for your buck, you want a program like the ACP.”
“Some program has to address broadband affordability and [without ACP], they’re going to reclassify broadband as a Title II service,” Westling explained. “I would be shocked if we let ACP expire, and if we don’t hear arguments about regulating companies. So if you’re a conservative, I think it’s important to support the current alternative.”
Panelists all agreed that if the ACP were to end, it would negatively affect people in low-income communities across the U.S., particularly elderly and rural consumers. The panelists stood united on the need for ongoing funding, highlighting how crucial the ACP is in empowering millions of Americans to succeed in the digital era.
NaLA believes that closing the digital divide means making broadband affordable for all Americans so that they can stay connected each and every month. We have partnered with advocates on both sides of the aisle to support the continuation of this program to ensure individuals and families are not left without affordable and consistent access to essential online services.