Affordable Connectivity Program (was Emergency Broadband Benefit Program)
With the common aim of ensuring that all people and communities have the skills, technology, and capacity needed to reap the full benefits of our digital economy, each of the 50 states is currently drafting a digital equity plan through what one official called “the largest demonstration of participatory democracy that our country has ever seen." The states are tasked with developing long-term objectives for closing the digital divide by addressing the needs of eight "covered populations"—incl
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.
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.
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.
Fitting the monthly cost of a broadband subscription into a low-income household budget is difficult, to say the least, because of the costs of competing necessities like lodging, food, and healthcare. These financial pressures—and unexpected expenses—keep too many people in the U.S. from subscribing to home broadband service—or cause them to drop service at times to make ends meet. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress recognized these obstacles for low-income people and created a program—first called the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program—to reduce the monthly costs of connectivity.
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.
Under the leadership of the White House, the Department of Education partnered with Civic Nation to launch the Online For All Campaign, bringing together a diverse coalition of supporting organizations to engage in local community action and large-scale mobilization efforts to ensure every household can get online.
Having a high-speed internet connection—and the ability to use it—is critical to modern life. One major challenge persists: we can run fiber broadband to every home in North Carolina, but if the residents can’t afford the service, they still risk being left behind. Fortunately, Congress created a tremendously impactful tool to combat the high costs of internet service as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). I urge you to reauthorize this critical program that makes internet access more affordable.
300 Mbps internet service is now available for Affordable Connectivity Program participants at no cost
Google Fiber is now offering 300 Mbps for $30 a month to customers who are participating in the Federal Communication Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) program. With the $30 subsidy, this plan is available at no cost to Google's ACP customers.
Mediacom has completed a fiber-optic network expansion in rural Truesdale (IA), delivering phone plans and download speeds of up to 2 Gbps with a focus on low-cost accessibility. Truesdale is the tenth community that Mediacom, the fifth largest cable operator in the US, has constructed through collaboration with the Empower Iowa Rural Broadband Grant Program. The operator has expanded its fiber network to over 1,400 locations in rural Iowa through that public-private partnership.