John Horrigan

Gain and Sustain: The Affordable Connectivity Program is Getting More People Online

There is a positive and significant correlation between broadband adoption growth and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) enrollment. As of December 2022, ACP was aiding one in every eight residential broadband connections in metro and urban counties in the United States, many of them new subscribers. New analysis of the 2022 American Community Survey (ACS) and ACP enrollment data points to important findings as Members of Congress consider additional funding for ACP.

Benton Institute Updates Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Performance Tool

“Updated data!” is a phrase that fills the hearts of data nerds everywhere and we’re here to help with an update to our Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Performance Tool. The data for the first version of the ACP Tool was current through January 2023, but we’ve fielded questions recently asking about updates. We now release an updated ACP Enrollment Performance Tool with data that runs through April 2023.

The Affordable Connectivity Program and Rural America

Households in rural America are overcoming significant headwinds as they sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) benefit at a higher rate than urban counterparts. Through April 2023, ACP enrollment data shows that: 15% of all rural households have enrolled in ACP and 14% of households in metro or urban areas have enrolled in the benefit. Even this modest difference is striking given the tensions that buffet rural residents as they consider enrolling in ACP.

ACP Enrollment Performance Tool: Understanding Factors that Play a Role in ACP Enrollment

Recently we launched the Benton Institute’s Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Performance Tool, a free resource that helps communities answer the question: “How are ACP sign-ups going?” Using the tool to search 5-digit zip codes delivers two important numbers:  1) how many households have signed up for ACP and 2) the expected number of households enrolled. Comparing expected enrollment to actual enrollment is a measure of performance.

The Benton Institute ACP Performance Tool

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is at an inflection point. Launched in early 2022, ACP provides 17 million households up to $30/month in subsidies to offset the cost of broadband. But the program faces two critical challenges. First, less than a third of eligible households currently participate in the program—mainly because the people who could benefit most from the subsidy are unaware that it exists. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), local governments, and digital equity groups are stepping up efforts to improve ACP awareness and participation.

Let’s close the digital divide once and for all for Black communities

Since digital technologies first emerged about 30 years ago, Black Americans have trailed in terms of access. This “digital divide” is real, it’s important and we can do better. According to our analysis of data from the American Community Survey, 40 percent of Black Americans do not have high-speed, fixed broadband at home, compared to 28 percent of whites.

Half of ACP-Eligible Households Still Unaware of the Program

After a year of operation, half of all households eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) internet subsidy are unaware of the benefit. A January 2023 survey of low-income households finds that over 50% say they have never heard of the program or do not know anything about it. Although many eligible households are unaware of ACP, the survey points to ways in which policymakers and community leaders can encourage enrollment. First, outreach can make a difference.

Closing the digital divide in Black America

The digital divide was first recognized in the mid-1990s. Three decades later, due in part to long-standing economic inequity and the economics of broadband, it remains an impediment to inclusive economic growth, particularly in Black American communities. There are five steps that state and local leaders and broadband stakeholders could take to expand broadband access and promote digital equity and inclusion in Black communities:

It’s No Time to Disarm in the War Against the Digital Divide

The pandemic spurred policymakers and community leaders around the country to create programs to connect those without home broadband service or computers. These programs have had an impact. New government data show sharp increases in broadband and computer adoption in the 2019-to-2021 time frame. Initiatives such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) have helped address “subscription vulnerability” for low-income households. With progress evident, it is time to extend and build on the ACP and local affordability programs.

American Community Survey data show substantial increases in household wireline broadband adoption