FCC Boosts Low-Income Internet Subsidy
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was created by Congress in late 2021 and implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to replace a previous pandemic-related subsidy program. The FCC recently announced that it will provide a monthly discount of up to $75 toward internet service for eligible households in certain high-cost areas. The monthly discount had been capped at $30 a month. The law defines high-cost areas as those “in which the cost of building out broadband service is higher, as compared with the average cost of building out broadband service in unserved areas in the United States.”
The ACP had already provided $75 monthly subsidies for homes on tribal lands, but not in other areas. The law that created the ACP lets the FCC make $75 subsidies available in areas where the costs of building broadband networks are higher than average. ACP subsidies are distributed to internet service providers that enroll in the program and give customers discounts.
According to the FCC, over 19.8 million low-income households are getting ACP discounts, including 2.8 million households in rural counties. Rural low-income households are signing up at a higher rate than urban ones. The FCC is hoping that $75 subsidies will expand the program's reach to more rural and/or low-income areas.
HUD Recommits to Enrolling Residents
In conjunction with the FCC’s announcement, HUD announced a new memorandum of understanding with the FCC to urge HUD-assisted residents to enroll in the ACP. HUD and the FCC intend to increase awareness of and encourage participation in the ACP among HUD-assisted households through:
- Outreach and enrollment events at public housing, in properties participating in HUD’s multifamily project-based rental assistance programs, and with key partners;
- Regular coordination meetings to review work on ACP outreach intended to target HUD-assisted households including through a series joint in person enrollment events around the country;
- Collaboration on ACP outreach and education efforts, including development of messaging and targeting intended audiences.
HUD has stated that ACP benefits don’t count as income for determining family rent or impact eligibility for HUD assistance. HUD is streamlining the process of enrolling in the ACP through data-sharing agreements that enable voucher holders and public housing residents to enroll with reduced paperwork, and soon will enable residents of Multifamily properties participating in project-based rental assistance to do the same. In addition, HUD’s field offices have been holding regional enrollment events across the country and will soon be doing so with FCC sign-up stations.