The FCC is trying to boost awareness about its affordable broadband program
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced that it awarded $66 million in funding to help drive awareness and enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
The ACP was created as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law and a previous version of it was created in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as it highlighted the country’s long-standing digital divide. The program essentially provides monthly discounts to eligible Americans on their broadband bills. It also offers a one-time discount for people to buy devices to help them get online.
The agency said it reviewed 350 grant applications and awarded grants to 197 applicants across all 50 states in the country. The funds will be used to conduct “digital campaigns, door-to-door canvassing, operate phone banks, distribute direct mail, host ACP application enrollment and outreach events,” the FCC said in a press release.
In addition, the FCC said it will make the online application process easier.
“For many households, the cost of groceries, gas and rent can eat up the monthly budget, putting internet access out of reach,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “The Affordable Connectivity Program is the nation’s largest-ever broadband affordability effort, supporting internet connections in more than 16 million households. That’s progress, but we want to do more to get out the word about this powerful program and reach families that may not know about this benefit. These outreach grants will help us expand awareness in more communities, so we can continue the work to close the digital divide.”
The push for more awareness comes on the heels of Vice President Kamala Harris touting the program’s success last month.
At an event in South Carolina, Harris said consumers were saving over $500 million a month because of the ACP and that more than 16 million people have enrolled. The White House said estimates note that nearly 40 percent of all the households in the country qualify for the program.
Specifically, the ACP allows for enrolled to get a $30-per-month discount for broadband bills, with that number being $75-per-month on Tribal lands. It also allows for eligible households to get a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.
Some of the criteria for homes to be eligible include: being enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, WIC, or Lifeline, or having an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or having a child enrolled in a free or reduced-price lunch program.
Why it matters
The U.S. has long grappled with a stark digital divide, the gap between those who have access to affordable internet and those who don’t.
Some estimates show nearly 60 million Americans aren’t connected to the internet. Meanwhile, a survey in 2021 found that a quarter of Americans worried about being able to pay their broadband bills.
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