ACP Outreach Grant Details to Come This Summer: Rosenworcel
The FCC plans to release details about the affordable connectivity program's outreach grants and pilot program aimed at boosting enrollment among households receiving federal public housing assistance this summer, said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel during a virtual Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights event Monday.
Congress gave the FCC the authority through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to spend some of its ACP funding on providing outreach grants (see 2203170048). The FCC received comments on how to structure the grants earlier this year and will “have the details ready this summer” so the application process for “local initiatives” can begin “this fall,” Rosenworcel said.
More than 12 million households and 1,300 providers are now participating in ACP, Rosenworcel said. It’s “not audacious to say that we can have broadband reach everyone in this country,” she said, and it’s “not unreasonable to say … we should have a program to help everyone afford basic broadband service.”
More needs to be done to “get the word out” about ACP, said White House Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice: “Millions of Americans are eligible for this benefit, but most don't know anything about it.” The administration’s new website dedicated to the program is “already the most visited White House webpage over the last 30 days,” Rice said.
Expanding broadband access is "a critical element of our efforts" in addressing equity, Rice said: "Too many families still go without high speed internet because of the cost or they have to cut back on other essentials to make their monthly internet service payments." Lowering costs is a "top priority as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law," she said.
The “vast majority” of people that don't have internet service can’t afford it, said National Urban League Senior Vice President-Policy and Advocacy Joi Chaney. Digital equity is “about equal access” and “that really cannot happen if you are not able to get online,” Chaney said. ACP “gets us one step closer” to delivering high speed access at affordable rates, said National Digital Inclusion Alliance Manager-Research and Policy Tsion Tesfaye.
ACP also included “enhanced” consumer protections that made the program “unique,” said National Consumer Law Center Staff Attorney Olivia Wein. It was “carefully designed to really help ACP participants find the broadband benefit that best meets their needs,” Wein said, saying providers couldn’t bar households from receiving services if they had poor credit or prevent them from switching to another provider. Wein noted households can also use other means of verifying their identity if they're uncomfortable with sharing their Social Security information. Chaney agreed but said the online application portal for ACP is "a secure system" and it's "all about making life easier."
The FCC is also “working closely” with NTIA on addressing the digital divide and will have “an honest accounting of where broadband service really is and is not in every community and nationwide” once the commission completes its new broadband maps, Rosenworcel said. The maps will be produced through "a bunch of sources," she said, adding the FCC will "double check it with data from state and local governments," consumers, and complete its own audits.