Nearly a third of Americans who don’t have broadband say the reason is because it costs too much — and unfortunately, Congress is prepared to let that figure rise dramatically.

Lawmakers have yet to renew funding for the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, which is being rolled back as of today and will fully come to an end in coming weeks unless Congress takes action. Through the ACP, more than 23 million households have received either reduced bills or effectively free internet service.

The shutdown of the ACP will hurt communities of color the most, with over 30 percent of Black families lacking home internet, and rural communities as well.

Affordable internet access isn’t just about surfing the web or scrolling social media. High-speed broadband is a gateway to education, job opportunities, health care, and so much more. By taking this important program away from low-income families, Congress is not only driving up costs for an already vulnerable population, but potentially taking away their educational, employment, and economic opportunities as well.

If Congress is serious about both closing the digital divide and achieving racial equity, it will have to act now to keep the ACP up and running.

Launched in 2021 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the ACP has been a resounding success, not only for helping families across the country afford reliable connectivity, but in incentivizing internet service providers to build it.

Too often, low-income and rural communities are overlooked by providers when they determine where to upgrade and expand high-speed service because they are viewed as a customer base who cannot afford it. Thanks to the ACP, these communities have become empowered customers — and internet service providers are now building strong, long-lasting connections to previously unserved and underserved areas.

My union, the Communications Workers of America, represents tens of thousands of broadband workers who are building and maintaining this nationwide network. They’re speaking with families and community members every day, hearing stories about unaffordable internet services and bad connectivity. And they’ve seen the direct benefits of the ACP in our cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

Like when the federal government built electricity to everyone, ACP is an investment in critical services and jobs that’s brought millions of Americans who were previously being left behind into the 21st Century. It’s a critical part of supporting Black, brown, and rural families and addressing economic inequality.

Losing the ACP wouldn’t only cut off these families — it would undercut the financial viability of networks being planned under the Infrastructure Act’s broadband deployment funding, causing providers to build less and leave more people behind. Affordable connectivity is truly one of the most important and most overlooked racial and economic justice issues of our time.

Discontinuing the ACP is an attack on the ability of communities of color and rural communities to access health care, online education, and better job opportunities, and would be a huge step backwards for our country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans could lose access to the life-saving services they need, from telehealth to remote work and online education.

Despite the success of the ACP, its bipartisan appeal, and the widespread need for affordable connectivity, Congress has not been able to move forward on funding for the program. We need our lawmakers to treat the internet as the essential resource that it is, and use our public dollars to help bridge the racial and economic gaps that may keep people offline.

Claude Cummings Jr. is president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. This op-ed was distributed by