A basic human right — the ability to fully participate in modern life via affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service — remains out of reach for many. The Biden administration recently announced it had reached agreements with 20 leading internet providers, covering more than 80 percent of Americans, to provide households eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 a month. But are those that can receive the benefit getting what they need to enroll?
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps low-income families and individuals ease the financial burden of making tough choices between paying for groceries and other household necessities or paying for high-speed internet service. The funds that the ACP provides for eligible households to afford high-speed internet access can help level the playing field for low-income families and individuals by increasing their access to educational, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities; civic engagement; telehealth services; and more.
As of June 2022, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has been live for six months, providing monthly discounts on the internet bills and device costs of over 12.4 million households in the United States.
Where Does the Affordable Connectivity Program Go from Here to Help Millions More Households Get Online?
Although there is already a ton of fantastic work being done on the ground, many of the groups doing that work would benefit from more funding that could be used to conduct direct Affordable Connectivity Program outreach, train digital navigators, and more. The Federal Communications Commission is currently engaged in a rulemaking to develop rules for how the grant program would work.
The broadband industry is at a unique crossroads. Between the many federal and state broadband funding opportunities that are now in play, well over $100 billion will be made available over the next five years. This funding cycle can help fuel the dramatic expansion of fiber broadband across the entire country, helping bring the promise of broadband to the unserved and underserved.
For college students, reliable broadband access isn’t just about watching a new Netflix series or playing video games. It affects our very ability to educate ourselves and, by extension, to shape our futures and contribute to our democratic society. It allows us to read our online textbooks, to access articles and books for our research assignments, and to upload resumes for jobs and internships.
The United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry teamed up with our civil rights allies in 2021 and successfully persuaded Congress to adopt a new program that helps low-income households pay for high-speed internet. Now that Congress has acted, our biggest challenge is publicizing the program. Families and individuals need to hear from trusted members of their own communities to learn more — people like you! Learn more about the new Affordable Connectivity Program and how you can help.
Dell is working with Dish to create a private 5G wireless network, and needs 12 GHz spectrum – the radio frequency used to carry wireless information for services like TV and radio broadcasting, mobile phones and Wi-Fi to communications systems – in order to launch the network. But there are a few problems Dell and Dish have to figure out first. The Federal Communications Commission will have to decide whether to hand that limited resource over to Dell and Dish to create their network.
Republicans who think there is no downside to dragging Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society]’s confirmation out interminably to block Title II — especially those who voted in favor of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) and are looking for that broadband money to begin flowing to their states — may wish to think again. Why?
As the pandemic continues for a third year, addressing the digital divide is critical for local governments and communities to prosper. The solution is fiber and wireless broadband investment and ownership by municipalities, utilities, electrical co-ops, and Tribal governments. With access to fiber broadband, everyone from residents and tourists to government entities can benefit from telework, access online education, offer and access online services, use telehealth, take advantage of economic opportunities and stay connected.