Internet access is not a luxury, but a “must have.”This plan is crucial

Reliable internet is a basic need for today’s families. Throughout every one of our careers, we have advocated for the critical need for equitable access to connectivity for all Kansas citizens, and we know that for thousands of people, that connectivity is possible through government-supported programs. One of the most important is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which helps to significantly reduce the digital divide. Launched during the pandemic, ACP has provided home internet access to more than 23 million homes in the United States, including more than 400,000 homes in Missouri and 150,000 homes in Kansas, when people needed this connectivity most.

Almost everything we do today requires some form of online access or Internet connection, from applying for jobs or school, meeting work or educational obligations, making doctor’s appointments, doing banking, watching TV, playing games, or even just chatting with friends and Families stay in touch. Reliable, affordable Internet access is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have.” ACP helps close gaps in traditionally underserved communities and address digital equity by providing online opportunities.

However, even if these families have access to the internet now, they may not be able to continue using it when the funds run out later this year. Without the additional help provided by ACP, many families, students, veterans and seniors are at risk of losing this important connection. Although the program is a nearly bipartisan initiative with support from all levels of government, no additional funding has been allocated to date to ensure the continuation of the ACP.

That means millions of people, including tens of thousands in Kansas City, are likely to lose their home internet connections this year if Congress doesn’t take immediate action. In fact, ACP stopped accepting new registrations in early February ahead of the possible termination of the program, but it’s not too late to save the program.

With bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Affordable Connectivity Plan Extension Act of 2024 was introduced on January 10. If passed, this legislation would provide critical funding to extend the ACP through the end of the year. To date, more than 400 organizations and industry leaders have expressed their support, but our elected officials need to listen to their constituents, too.

Please take a moment to contact your congressional representatives and encourage them to vote for the ACP Extension Act. In order for Kansas City to move forward, we cannot take a step back by leaving some in our community behind.

We would like to thank Kansas Senator Roger Marshall and Representative Sharice Davis, Missouri Representatives Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver, and several area chambers of commerce, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Represents additional funding to support the Affordable Connectivity Initiative.

Carrie Coogan is associate director of public affairs and community engagement at the Kansas City Public Library. Tom Esselman is executive director of the Kansas City Digital Equity Program Office.

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