The US government has launched an Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) allowing eligible families to access broadband internet for cheap. The initiative kick-started today with $14.2 billion funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed in November.
The program is a long-term policy that began after COVID-19 compelled families’ broadband deals to keep learning and work-from-home. The economic disparity exists and the low-cost internet packages will help poor families stay connected to broadband.
Under the program, American households can be eligible for up to a $30 discount on their internet bills per month. For families on Tribal lands, the discount goes up to $75 monthly. The program will narrow the broadband disparity in the country by connecting millions who are without an internet connection.
The government says its Affordable Connectivity Program will benefit those who have had difficulty in getting online more consistently. There is an estimate that 30 million people are without a fast internet connection in the US and this subsidized internet plan would ease them off for their online consumption.
Affordable Connectivity Program for lowly connected America
In the US, there are still a large number of people residing on tribal lands who have no access to high-speed broadband at home. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports in 2017 showed the damning internet discrepancy that a third of those on tribal lands were without a good internet at home. This is more telling when compared to the cities where only a slim minority 1.5 percent has had no access to high-speed internet service.
But it is not just the American operators’ lack of infrastructures that are causing a gulf in broadband connection across the country. The cost of high-speed broadband is another stumbling block too.
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that the United States has the second-highest broadband costs out of 35 countries. Verge citing the data from US Census Bureau, reports that the natives in Alaska and the American Indians are still poverty-stricken than any other groups in the country. And being online is the first prerequisite to applying for the Affordable Connectivity Program.
The families need to visit ACPBenefit.org and apply or print out a mail-in application.
Besides the discounts on the internet, the eligible people can also receive a one-time $100 discount for a laptop, desktop, or tablet from the participant service providers. Operators such a T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT & T have collaborated with the government for the Affordable Connectivity Program so far.
This program is the long-term successor to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program that eased off American families during COVID-19. It offered a discount of &50 per month for families who were not residing on Tribal lands and will continue till March 1, 2022.
Although a lesser discount amount, FCC has widened the criteria for eligibility that will accommodate more into the program. The Affordable Connectivity Program will now include families that are also eligible for WIC. Besides, a household with 200 percent or below an income of federal poverty guidelines will also qualify for the discounted internet.
Verge reports the Affordable Connectivity Program will gain more funding including $65 billion from the $1 trillion infrastructure law. The Program will benefit potentially 30 million American households that are without proper broadband and play a part to narrow the digital divide.
Despite communications technology improving in leaps and bound, the digital discrepancy exists and it’s keeping millions of families out of online services including, education, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you think more states should launch such programs to narrow the broadband divide in their countries? Do offer your inputs in the comments below.