For many years, SIIA member companies have strongly supported closing the digital divide. School closures at the beginning of the pandemic exacerbated the longstanding problem of students, families, and educators not having access to internet at home.
A new program administered by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) seeks to diminish the digital divide and finally close the homework gap. We’ve put together the following resource for member companies and the broader education technology community to share with their school partners to bring awareness to this new program.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The ACP enables eligible households to save on their internet bills when they sign up at GetInternet.gov.
The ACP provides eligible households:
- A discount of up to $30 per month to pay for internet service (or up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands); and
- A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer from participating providers if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
Many internet providers offer fully covered internet plans — meaning eligible households can get high-speed internet without paying a dime.
Who qualifies for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
- Households with income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; or,
- Those receiving a government benefit like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, WIC, Pell Grant, or Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, and more; or,
- Those who meet the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income internet program.
Nearly 40% of U.S. households are eligible to save through ACP right now, but tens of millions of eligible households have not yet claimed their benefit.
How can qualifying households sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Households should visit GetInternet.gov to check eligibility, apply, and find an internet provider that meets their needs.
Households can also apply by printing out a mail-in application (available at GetInternet.gov), contacting a participating internet service provider, or calling 877-384-2575 to learn more.
Once the application is approved, households need to choose a plan from a participating internet service provider and have their ACP benefit applied to that plan.
I am employed by a K-12 school or district, what Affordable Connectivity Program resources are available to me?
To encourage ACP sign-ups, the FCC is partnering with the Office of Educational Technology (OET) to create FAQs and resources to facilitate communication with families about their ACP eligibility. These resources include:
- A template letter to let families know that their child receives free or reduced-price school meals and is subsequently ACP-eligible;
- A sample form for schools to complete that households can present to an ACP participating provider or to submit along with their ACP application to demonstrate their child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals;
- The White House school ACP outreach toolkit; and
- Suggested strategies for school and district outreach to families.
For families struggling to afford their monthly internet service, this program may be able to help them maintain the essential technologies for their children’s learning and development.
I am employed by an ed tech company, how can I support sign-ups for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Ed tech companies can play a role in encouraging sign-ups by working with schools to post notices on digital bulletin boards, class registration pages or other sites. These notices can include information on the ACP and eligibility requirements. Ed tech companies can also direct students or their parents to GetInternet.gov to find out more and start the enrollment process, if eligible. Additionally, sign-ups can be encouraged by including information on the ACP and how to apply in the emails or other mass communications sent to students and families. These communications can further be targeted to partner school districts with large numbers of students eligible for free or-reduced price lunch, or those in CEP districts.
I am a leader in higher education, how can I support sign-ups for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Higher education leaders can support ACP sign-ups by reaching out directly to students via text, through on-campus notices in their mailboxes, in libraries or student centers, and by email or other methods to notify them of the existence of the ACP. These communications could highlight the eligibility of Pell Grant recipients and direct them to GetInternet.gov to apply. It may also be helpful to include a list of local providers who are participating in ACP and information on the one-time $100 discount on a laptop, tablet, or computer as part of the program. Additionally, leaders can host office hours or other events at which students can learn about the ACP, complete applications, and get questions answered. These events could be hosted in partnership with local internet service providers.
For a more targeted approach, leaders can reach out directly to the lists of current-year Pell Grant recipients to notify them that they are automatically eligible for ACP and direct them to GetInternet.gov. Please also consider outreach from financial aid offices to other students who may be eligible.