FCC's ACP Pilot Programs Coming Soon
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
FCC's ACP Pilot Programs Coming Soon
Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission set guidelines for two pilot programs aimed at increasing both awareness of and participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households (and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands). On October 11, the FCC provided an update on the implementation of the pilot programs. The short of it is that the FCC is not yet accepting applications to participate in the pilot programs, but there are things eligible entities could be doing now to prepare their applications.
The FCC set aside $100 million for Affordable Connectivity Program outreach. Each of the pilot programs discussed here will make up to $5 million in grants to community partners. Your Home, Your Internet and ACP Navigator Pilot Program applicants are not required to seek grant funding through the Pilot Grants. Applicants that will not rely on grant funding through the Pilot Grants for their outreach activities may receive an earlier notice of approval to participate in either or both pilot programs.
The Pilot Programs
The FCC established the Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program to increase Affordable Connectivity Program awareness specifically among recipients of federal housing assistance and to facilitate enrollment in the program by providing targeted assistance with completion of the Affordable Connectivity Program application. The goal is to reach and connect the households living in approximately 5 million available housing units subsidized by federal housing assistance.
The FCC is setting aside $10 million for Your Home, Your Internet, including: 1) $5 million for grants to up to 20 pilot participants, which may include government entities and third-party organizations serving federal housing assistance recipients from across the country and 2) $5 million for the FCC's own outreach activities and potential collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other federal agency partners that work directly with federal housing assistance recipients.
In January 2022, the FCC directed its Wireline Competition Bureau and the Universal Service Administrative Company (known affectionately as USAC) to conduct a one-year test pilot for granting trusted, neutral third-party entities (such as schools, school districts, or other local or state governmental entities) with access to the National Verifier for purposes of assisting customers with applying for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Public and government entities, such as public schools and public school districts, and local, state, or Tribal government entities are eligible to apply for participation in the ACP Navigator Pilot Program. Non-profit organizations are not eligible to apply for the ACP Navigator Pilot Program. However, eligible government entities selected to participate in the ACP Navigator Pilot Program may enter into partnerships with neutral non-profit organizations provided that the government entity informs the FCC that it is partnering with one or more specific non-profit organization(s) and identifies any such partner organization(s). Access to the National Verifier through the ACP Navigator Pilot is limited to actual representatives of the participating government entity, and enrollment activities through the National Verifier shall take place in the government entity’s facility or other location maintained or operated by the government entity. After reviewing applications, the Wireline Competition Bureau expects to select up to 20 participants to participate in the ACP Navigator Pilot Program.
Applying to Participate in the Pilot Programs
Eligible entities seeking to participate in either or both pilot programs must submit an application. There will be one application for both the Your Home, Your Internet and ACP Navigator Pilot Programs and applicants will be required to indicate to which program(s) they are applying. The Wireline Competition Bureau expects that the application process will be paperless and will be conducted exclusively via an online application system. The FCC has not yet indicted when entities can start applying to participate in the programs. Before the application window opens, the Wireline Competition Bureau will provide information detailing the application window period and providing the link for accessing the application system.
The Wireline Competition Bureau expects that Pilot Program participant selections will be made based solely on the information provided in the online applications, and does not anticipate that applicants will have the opportunity to supplement their applications after submission. (Although the Wireline Competition Bureau has the discretion to permit applicants to remedy incomplete or deficient applications as needed.) Given the limited one-year length of the Pilot Programs, the Wireline Competition Bureau anticipates that only one application window will be opened.
Those interested in applying for the Your Home, Your Internet or ACP Navigator Pilot Programs are encouraged to prepare by collecting the types of information outlined below:
- Applicant entity name.
- Applicant entity type.
- Applicant entity address.
- Applicant entity phone number.
- Applicant FCC Registration Number (FCC FRN) (only if seeking grant funding). * More on this below
- Applicant SAM.gov Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) (only if seeking grant funding). * More on this below
Contact Information of Individual Submitting Application on Behalf of the Entity
- Contact name.
- Contact title.
- Contact phone number.
- Contact email address.
Pilot Program Information
- Name of the Pilot Program to which the applicant is applying (Your Home, Your Internet, ACP Navigator, or both).
- Estimated number of individuals the applicant intends to engage through proposed pilot activities, and estimated percentage of those individuals that may be ACP-eligible.
- Geographic areas to be served including city(ies), county(ies), and state(s), and a description of whether the areas to be served are rural, non-rural, or lands identified as Tribal for purposes of determining eligibility for the ACP enhanced benefit. If an applicant intends to engage in outreach activities targeted to one or more specific federally-assisted housing property(ies), the applicant should also provide this information.
- Constituencies the applicant intends to serve (including federal housing assistance recipients, persons who live on Tribal lands, persons who live in rural areas, persons with disabilities, persons of color, other persons who are or who have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality, or other).
- Description of the applicant’s role in the community in which it serves, including but not limited to a description of the applicant’s purpose or mission, the impact in the community the applicant intends to serve, and prior experience with assisting low-income consumers with public benefit programs.
- Description of activities the applicant proposes to conduct through the Pilot Programs (e.g., creation of new promotional materials, hands-on application assistance, or site-based outreach).
- Description of how the applicant intends to track and evaluate or measure the success of activities conducted through the pilot programs. The FCC is asking applicants to identify each projected outcome, subsequent milestones that will be met, and the estimated timeline within the one-year period of performance.
- Explanation of the strategies the applicant intends to use to reach low-income consumers eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program, including goals and objectives, and how the applicant plans to target consumer outreach.
- Description of how the proposed pilot project could benefit other entities looking to assist federal public housing assistance participants or other low-income consumers and could generate best practices and lessons learned for others with similar needs.
- Governmental entities seeking to apply to the Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program in conjunction with a tenant association, on-site service coordinator, or non-profit or community-based organization should be prepared to demonstrate support of the partnership, including by providing information about that partnering organization, a description of the nature of the partnership; and any prior experience that the partnering organization has performing outreach to federal public housing assistance recipients.
- Governmental entity applicants to the ACP Navigator Pilot Program seeking to partner with one or more non-profit entity(ies) should be prepared to submit information about such entities, including a description of the non-profit’s role in the geographic areas and with the constituents the applicant is applying to serve through the Pilot, and information demonstrating the nonprofit’s neutrality with respect to broadband service providers.
- Indication of whether the applicant intends to apply for the Your Home, Your Internet and/or ACP Navigator Pilot Grants and if so, whether the applicant’s participation in either of the Pilot Programs is contingent on receipt of funding through the Pilot Grants and how much grant funding the applicant intends to request. Specific instructions on how to apply for Pilot Grants funding will be made available through the release of a Pilot Programs-specific Notice of Funding Opportunity. That Notice of Funding Opportunity will provide information on submitting the application for Pilot Grants funding through Grants.gov and outline the specific information that pilot applicants will need to submit in order to be considered for grant funding for their Pilot activities. Pilot applicants seeking grant funding for non-Pilot activities will need to complete a full grant application through Grants.gov. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is expected to be released in November 2022.
The FCC will prioritize applications that:
- will target a broad geographic area and/or large number of people in the target audiences for ACP outreach;
- incorporate effective tracking and performance measurements to provide valuable information to the Commission; and
- encourage participation by those in the applicant’s target community(ies) that have a low participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program.
FRNs and SAMs
If an entity intends to apply for grant funding to carry out their proposed Pilot activities, the applicant must first obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN) and be registered with the System for Award Management and Grants.gov.
An FRN is a 10-digit number that is assigned to a business or individual registering with the FCC. This unique FRN is used to identify the registrant’s business dealings with the FCC. Applicants must register for an FRN in the Commission Registration System (CORES). To register with CORES, use the following link: https://apps.fcc.gov/cores/userLogin.do.
- The first step to setting up an account in CORES is creating a username and account in the FCC User Registration System using the following link: https://apps2.fcc.gov/fccUserReg/pages/login.htm.
- Before the account is activated, the user will receive an automated email titled “FCC Account Request Verification” and must verify its account email address as prompted.
- Once the user is logged in to CORES, the user should select the “Register New FRN” or “Associate Username to FRN” option as applicable from the menu options that appear and provide the information as prompted by CORES.
- Users will need to provide their taxpayer identification number or TIN to register. The TIN is a nine-digit number that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires of all individuals, businesses, and other employers to identify their tax accounts with the IRS.
- Once the user provides the information required in CORES and clicks “Submit,” CORES will generate a new FRN or associate the user’s existing FRN with its account.
In addition to submitting a separate short-form application for grant funding, all entities that intend to apply for an outreach grant will need to register, and maintain an active registration, with the System for Award Management (SAM). Only grantees registered in SAM with an active registration will be able to receive reimbursement for outreach grants from the Affordable Connectivity Fund.
This article offers just a brief take on the FCC's public notice on the pilot programs. Additional detail can be found there.
If you have additional questions, send an email to ACPpilots@fcc.gov. Additional information concerning both the Your Home, Your Internet and ACP Navigator Pilot Programs will be posted at the following link: https://www.fcc.gov/acp-pilots.
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