Of the 28 million households in the U.S. that lack broadband internet in their home, 18 million say it is because they cannot afford an internet connection.
For rural Americans, that lack of affordability – paired with the rural-urban digital divide – often means insurmountable challenges to accessing an affordable connection to the internet.
In September of 2023, the Rural & Agriculture Council of America (RACA), the National Grange, RuralRISE Tech, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging renewal of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
Let’s look at the program and how it can help rural communities.
What is the ACP?
The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC program that focuses on broadband affordability for American households.
The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.
Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
Why Does it Matter for Rural America?
Excerpting from the letter, emphasis ours:
Overwhelmingly, rural communities’ connectivity has been categorized as a long-term problem to address. These Americans have been overlooked as lawmakers view the digital divide through the simplistic, narrow lens of “who can we help with the most immediate impact”.
This is because the historical narrative around broadband access holds that households are unconnected because they simply lack access to high-speed internet infrastructure. Indeed, broadband deployment has been toughest in hard-to-reach areas, which in turn causes high costs for internet on rural consumers.
However, the ACP has alleviated such high costs through providing a discount. This affordability initiative ensures the billions of federal dollars that Congress and The White House have designated to states help build out more broadband infrastructure, through the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, are going to have a tangible impact for the Americans who need it most.
So, what can you do to support the program?
Help Get the Word Out
There are a number of ways to support the ACP, including reaching out to your representatives in the House and Senate.
You can read the letter of support here. You can help your community get enrolled, and share the information with others in rural areas. You can also learn more about the program, including eligibility and enrollment information, by visiting https://www.fcc.gov/acp or calling 877-384-2575.