The Biden administration’s bipartisan infrastructure law, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), provides a $30 monthly discount on internet bills for eligible households. On May 9th, President Biden announced that since some internet providers have plans that cost no more than $30, eligible families who qualify for the ACP benefit can receive high speed internet at no charge. The White House said that the plan provides download speeds that are fast enough for a family of four to video conference, stream movies or TV. According to the latest US Census report, approximately 1 in 10 (10%) of Mecklenburg County households are without internet access. The Census also shows that approximately one third of Mecklenburg County households with incomes below $20K do not have internet access.
Pat Millen, co-founder and president of E2D, an organization that is working to bridge the digital divide, “said that the ACP makes internet access almost like the public utility that so many of us dream about.” To qualify for the ACP benefit:
- income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines ($27,180) Add $9440 to that amount for each individual in the household
- someone in the household must participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or Federal Housing Public Assistance
- must meet the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband service for existing low income internet programs
Applications are accepted online at GetInternet.gov or can be submitted by mail. In Mecklenburg County, a Digital Navigator service (reached by calling 311) will assist residents in completing the application.
Black Churches 4 Digital Equity Coalition, formerly Black Churches for Broadband, is assisting ministries looking to get information for their members. The organization says they “work to educate members of our community about broadband internet assistance programs, encourage unconnected households to get online, to train and organize leaders as advocates to get their communities connected, and to advance digital equity.” You can find more information at blackchurches4digitalequity.com.
The late Congressman John Lewis said that internet access is “the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” Eligible households can also get a one time discount up to $100 to purchase an internet enable device from participating providers.