FCC Establishes Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program

The FCC on Friday established the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program. It’s meant to raise awareness about the nation’s largest ever broadband affordability effort, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The Second Report and Order approved by the Commissioners directs the agency’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to develop, administer, and manage the program.

The ACP is already helping 13 million low-income American households bridge the connectivity divide by providing the affordable broadband services they need for work, school, and healthcare. Yet millions of eligible households either don’t think they qualify or don’t know how to register.  

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks is credited with doing much of the leadership on this program. During the vote, he said the item will fund 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. These communities may not yet be aware of ACP, or may be skeptical.  To reach them, we need exactly this type of targeted outreach.”

He said he’s heard from advocates, broadband providers, and community leaders over the past few years on how the FCC can do better in reaching unconnected households. “This is your opportunity to become a full-fledged partner and help execute those ideas,” said Starks. “Let’s go—apply to participate and let’s partner up to help close the digital divide!”

Funding for the Outreach Grant Program will come from the $100 million the Commission designated for ACP outreach efforts in its order establishing rules for the ACP. Grants will support governmental and non-governmental partners in conducting a range of outreach activities to raise awareness of ACP and increase enrollment among eligible households.

The ACP provides qualifying low-income households with a monthly discount of up to $30 per month (and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands). It also provides a one-time $100 discount toward a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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