The FCC is continuing to address challenges to Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) registration rates with two additional Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) for grants for outreach programs aimed at helping the program reach historically unserved and underserved communities.
The two NOFOs, for $5 million each, are for the National Competitive Outreach Program and the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program (NCOP and TCOP). Applications for the NCOP must be submitted by 6 PM EDT on June 30, 2023 and for the TCOP by the same time on July 28, 2023.
The ACP is a $14.2 billion program that provides a $30 discount towards Internet service to eligible low-income households. The discount is $75 on Tribal lands. ACP also pays up to $100 toward the cost of a device if that household contributes between $10 and $50. The program was created in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which also is known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“I’m grateful for the continued engagement of local leaders who have partnered with us to spread the word about the nation’s largest broadband affordability effort,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release about the ACP outreach funding. “We’ve had great success so far–with more than 18 million households enrolled–but we know there are many more households we can reach with help to get online and stay online. No strategy has proven more effective than empowering trusted leadership and organizations to work with families and raise awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program.”
The ACP has had well documented problems gaining traction. In March, The Pew Charitable Trust released a report that cited a study by the Education SuperHighway that said approximately 25% of eligible households participate in ACP. The report said that a key to increasing participation is simplification of the application process.
The FCC already was addressing the issues. Last November, the NCOP and the TCOP and two other programs designed to increase ACP participation — Your Home, Your Internet Program and the ACP Navigator Pilot Program – were introduced.
During the same week in April, the FCC said it would use clearer instructions, reduced steps and simpler language in an effort to cut enrollment time.