The Federal Communications Commission has voted unanimously to create an outreach program for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that will help fund efforts to get more eligible low-income residents to take advantage of the subsidy.
The goal is to raise general awareness of the ACP, which provides $14.2 billion for low-income Americans.
Also a part of the effort, the FCC voted Friday (Aug. 5) to create the one-year “Your Home, Your Internet” pilot program to boost awareness of and enrollment in the ACP in households receiving federal housing assistance.
While more than 13 million low-income residents are already benefiting from the program, the FCC said, millions more who could take advantage are not doing so. The FCC said that was not for lack of trying given that its staff have engaged in "extensive outreach." But it said that "for many of these partners, budget constraints limit the extent of ACP outreach they can perform without additional financial support."
In the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress authorized the FCC to provide such grants.
“I’m excited to vote for this item establishing the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program. It has my strong support for a number reasons," FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks said. “First, we will be funding outreach to diverse populations — persons with disabilities, individuals living in rural or Tribal communities, and those who have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by poverty or inequality. I have called for outreach to these communities in past statements and speeches, and am glad to see this is reflected in this item.”
The ACP is part of the Biden administration's universal broadband pledge, a recognition that internet connectivity is basically table stakes for opportunities in work, education and entertainment.
Eligible households can get up to $30 per month (up to $75 on tribal lands) toward their broadband bills and a $100 discount on a laptop, desktop or tablet (but not a smartphone).
To be eligible, a household has to meet at least one of a number of criteria, including making 200% or less of the federal poverty level. For example, the poverty level for a family of four is $26,500, so any family of four making $53,000 or less would qualify for the benefit. ■
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.