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Some Syracuse residents will no longer have free Internet service if federal program expires

City of Syracuse

A key federal program that provides discounted affordable broadband internet services to low-income families is set to expire next month.

The Syracuse Common Council passed a resolution urging the federal government to renew the Affordable Connectivity Program. ACP is set to expire in April unless additional appropriations are approved by Congress.

WRVO reached out to Rep. Brandon Williams' (R-Sennett) office about his stance on the bill. A spokesperson for Williams said they were looking into the bill.

Jenn Tifft, director of strategic initiatives for the city of Syracuse, said there's a huge need in the city for the program.

"40% of Syracuse households are enrolled in that program shows how badly people in our city need a discount on internet," Tifft said.

Locally the city is building on its own affordable broadband program: Surge Link.

The City is entering into an agreement with Empire State Development for the municipal infrastructure program for an amount not to exceed $30 million. The goal is to install fiber optic and other broadband infrastructure to expand Surge Link, targeting neighborhoods in the Northside and Southside where internet access remains low.

Tifft said there are about 550 eligible residents utilizing Surge Link. They hope to hit the 2500 mark by the fall. The City of Syracuse is able to offer the program for free right now, but that will change if ACP expires.

"Right now we've got for our existing service the ability through our ARPA funding to offer a local subsidy when the federal subsidy goes away," Tifft said. "We're talking about being able to provide internet at $10 month, high-speed internet at $10 a month, which is going to be significantly cheaper than what they're going to be able to get through a commercial provider that they would otherwise have the option if they want home internet."

A 2022 census report showed 25% of Syracuse households lacked reliable access to broadband internet.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.