On April 3, 2023 The FCC announced a series of enhancements to the online consumer applications process for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) in order to make it easier for consumers to enroll in the program. Per the press release, the ACP is now supporting internet connections in 17 million households. The enhancements are designed to reduce the time it takes to enroll by providing clear instructions, and to decrease the steps required to enroll. The ACP program was created and funded by the 11/15/21 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The program provides a discount of up to $30/month toward internet service ($75 for Tribal consumers) for eligible households and a one time discount of $100 for the purchase of a computer, laptop, or tablet from participating providers. The $100 discount for the purchase of a device requires a co-payment from the consumer. Participation in the ACP by broadband providers is not mandatory. In addition, those broadband providers electing to participate in the ACP have the option to only offer the monthly discount on internet service while choosing not to participate relative to $100 discount towards the purchase of a device. In order to participate in the ACP broadband provider must be designated as an ETC and must file an election form with USAC. The ACP election form is available on the USAC website. The USAC website also provides information regarding additional documentation that is required to accompany the ACP election form.
In a related matter, the FCC recently directed the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to offer an additional $10 million for the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program. The FCC launched this program in November, 2022. The goal of the program is to empower and incentivize community organizations to develop programs to reach underserved and unserved communities by providing these organizations with funding to increase awareness and participation in the ACP. To achieve this goal, the Outreach Grant Program provides funding for four complimentary programs: the National Competitive Outreach Program (NCOP); the Your Home Your Internet Outreach Grants Program; the Navigator Pilot Outreach Grants Program; and the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program (TCOP). This latest $10 million funding opportunity is specifically targeted to the NCOP and the TCOP. These outreach programs are also a by-product of the November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As mentioned above ACP is now supporting internet connections in 17 million households. The FCC believes that a significant number of eligible households are still not aware of and have not enrolled in the ACP and therefore meaningful outreach by a variety of partners and methods is necessary to help maximize the beneficial impacts of the ACP.