Every day, Charter employees engage with families and businesses in thousands of communities across the country that represent the full diversity of the American experience. That’s why we understand better than most the struggles people face in getting and staying connected: it’s our job and these customers are our family, friends, and neighbors.
When a global pandemic pushed so much of everyday life online, the gap between those with and without connectivity was exposed – and many realized for the first time the impossible situation faced by families who either didn’t have internet service available or could not afford service. We knew Charter had a unique and outsized opportunity to be part of the solution, including through participation in some government support programs:
- Increasing Internet Availability | Charter is investing more than $4 billion in private funding alongside government support in our rural construction initiative, which is bringing gigabit-speed broadband to more than a million currently unserved or underserved mostly rural locations.
- Increasing Internet Affordability | Building on the success of our low-cost Spectrum Internet Assist program, which launched in 2016, Charter actively promoted the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP), including in our stores, through news and social media, on our website, and through direct mail to ensure we reach unconnected families in need. Charter’s significant participation in these programs has helped millions of families in need gain and keep access to reliable, high-speed in-home internet service.
Charter is a leader in delivering life-changing high-speed internet service to low-income families. Key to our success has been Charter’s years-long experience identifying, reaching, and connecting families in need. In 2016, Charter launched its own, privately funded low-income broadband program – Spectrum Internet Assist – which achieved great success and is still available today.
When a bipartisan congress created the ACP, they made it available to all low-income families. In other words, the law doesn’t restrict the ACP benefit to “new users” of the internet, in fact, it requires the opposite. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech policy think tank, explained why:
“Like many other subsidy programs, ACP is intended to help cash-strapped households with their purchase of a necessity and to alleviate some of the tradeoffs that come with a very limited budget. For essentials that require consistency—like an Internet subscription—subsidy programs are intended to ensure stable access, not just to enable first-time use. Nobody’s denied food stamps because they’ve eaten food before or happen to have canned goods in their pantry.”
The same bipartisan Congress chose to make the ACP available to households that qualify “for a participating provider’s existing low-income program” (called an “alternative verification process” (AVP)) – so long as they had been in place when the providers’ own funds were at stake. Why did Congress include AVPs? Because the vulnerable populations that most need the help are known to struggle with the heavy administrative requirements of some government verification processes, which may also be privacy intrusive. A GAO report found more than 2/3 (68%) of those going through the National Verifier’s manual review process do not complete the application. AVPs are a market-based alternative that shifts that administrative burden to the provider.
Charter is committed to ensuring the long-term integrity and success of the government programs in which we participate – and to helping continuously improve them. We are partnering with policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure the continued efficacy of the ACP, and, where needed, improve how it is administered.
Lawmakers should be proud of the programs they have supported and the difference they’ve already helped make – individual lives changed, rural towns given new opportunities to compete, and entire communities reaping the rewards. Few things matter more than continuing this progress connecting the millions of Americans who still aren’t online and ensuring that high-speed internet remains within reach for every family in America, regardless of income.