The FCC approved plans today for outreach programs aimed at increasing awareness and signups for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which pays up to $30 monthly toward the cost of internet connectivity for low-income households. One of the programs is the five-year Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program. The other is the Your Home, Your Internet one-year pilot program.
The ACP was established in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Since the ACP kicked off at the beginning of this year, 13 million households have signed up, but another 35 million also are eligible, FCC officials noted at today’s commission meeting, where the rules for the programs were adopted.
As a fact sheet explains, the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program will provide funding to eligible governmental and non-governmental entities to conduct outreach to increase awareness of and encourage participation in the ACP. It will be administered by FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB).
The Your Home, Your Internet program is directed specifically toward low-income households that receive federal housing assistance. Plans for the one-year pilot program call for awarding funding for outreach programs to 20 government entities and third-party organizations serving federal housing assistance recipients.
In comments at today’s monthly commission meeting, where rules for the programs were adopted, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks noted that only 10% of the nearly 5 million recipients of federal housing assistance have signed up to participate in the ACP.
“We can and must do better,” said Starks, who added that “if we can help a family secure housing, we should be able to help them secure an internet connection as well.”
Starks noted that he has met with advocates and housing participants around the country about what can be done to improve the ACP and has learned from success stories, such as Nickerson Gardens public housing community in Los Angeles, where 78% of units are online.
He attributes that success to collaborative efforts on the part of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, community partners, residents and providers.
He cautioned that, to be successful, the grants will need to go to support organizations that are grounded in these communities. In addition, media and other outreach organizations should have “real experience and expertise working with low-income people and communities of color.”
Citing trust issues that must be overcome, he said, “Make no mistake—both the message and the messenger matter here.”
The FCC has a budget of $100 million for outreach programs to support the ACP. The commission will use $5 million of that for the Your Home, Your Internet program grants and will use $5 million to fund the commission’s own outreach for the program.