Today’s interconnected world makes it hard to imagine a day or more without internet access, but that may soon be the reality for millions of Americans when funding for a critical federal program runs out. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides a monthly subsidy to eligible low-income households to help pay their monthly broadband bill. To be clear, we’re talking about basic internet access and the doors it opens, not free Netflix.

This program has made tremendous progress in getting and keeping low-income Americans connected to affordable broadband, but if Congress fails to fund it this month, the digital divide will widen. Now is the time for lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to come together and fund this popular, empowering, consumer-friendly, fiscally compelling and bipartisan program.

The ACP is the nation’s most successful and sensible broadband affordability program by many metrics. More than  23 million households participate. That means 70 million Americans depend on the ACP for sustainable connectivity — one in six. American families struggle to meet housing, food and transportation expenses, much less broadband.

Moreover, recipients are spread throughout our nation. Half of these households live in red congressional districts and half in blue ones. Nearly half are military families, a fourth live in rural communities, a fourth are Latino, and a fourth are Black. Nearly 20 percent of those enrolled are seniors 65 or older.

The program’s popularity stems from a few factors. First, the subsidy amount makes a meaningful difference for those with limited resources. The ACP provides $30 a month toward broadband or $75 on tribal lands — a significant amount that can cover a monthly bill for many ACP participants, including many who are unbanked.

For the fiscally minded, ACP differs from most federal programs because, to borrow a phrase, it provides “a hand up, not a handout.” Connectivity opens up job opportunities and access to telehealth. It enables low-income students to play on a level field with access to assignments and school resources when they leave the campus. According to  an FCC survey conducted in December 2023, 75 percent of ACP participants use their connections for school work and 72 percent for telehealth. Almost half used the internet to work or apply for work. The ACP, in other words, is an investment in empowering individuals and producing greater self-sufficiency.

This investment pays off.  Research finds that broadband adoption results in economic growth. Not only does it mean higher incomes and lower unemployment, but it saves in public spending by lowering dependence on and using government benefits. In fact, every $1 of ACP service subsidy results in close to $2 in benefits to the subscriber. Plus, dollars spent on the ACP come right back into the economy with a high return on investment.

Researchers estimate that the ACP added $55.2 billion to GDP — 3.89 times the $14.2 billion investment of the program.

That is not to mention the staggering cost savings from telehealth. Recent studies have found the average individual savings for using telehealth for non-urgent doctor appointments is almost $300 yearly.

Today, there is bipartisan support for legislation to fund the program through the end of the year — with co-sponsors as politically disparate as Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Some 400 organizations across the political spectrum support funding the program. Another bipartisan piece of legislation would fund a reformed ACP with eligibility more carefully tailored to include those who need help staying connected.

Politically, Americans support renewing the program: 79 percent of all Americans, including 64 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents and 95 percent of Democrats. The research shows that 80 percent of Americans in rural communities support the program and support parallels that in urban areas. Congress is hearing about it: Americans have made more than 400,000 calls and emails to Congress asking for funding.

So now it’s time to fund it with appropriations sufficient to carry the program forward. That is not to suggest ACP couldn’t be refined and reformed so that eligibility is more precisely tailored to the genuinely needy, generating greater support for the program. Fixes to program eligibility and addressing waste, fraud and abuse are generally favored by industry participants.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, funding the ACP offers a rare win for all — for members of Congress, constituents, veterans, seniors, students, workers and our future. Members on both sides of the aisle should renew funding for the program and keep America connected.