With over 28 million U.S. households lacking access to high-speed broadband, 18 million of those households are unconnected because they are unable to afford an available internet connection. To close this digital divide, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development (BEAD) Programs must be complementary tools, but there’s a lot of work to be done to get the most out of ACP.
“There are over 51 million households that are eligible for ACP, but only 14.8 million that are eligible have actually enrolled,” said Evan Marwell, the Founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “We have a big gap that we need to fill. [ACP] gives us a tremendous opportunity to actually close the broadband affordability gap if we can drive adoption of this program.”
EducationSuperHighway is a non-profit focused on closing the digital divide in America’s most unconnected communities. In eight years, the organization connected nearly 47 million students in 99.7% of America’s classrooms to high-speed broadband. Today, EducationSuperHighway is working to increase awareness and support enrollment of ACP around the country.
“We are working with states to launch statewide ACP awareness campaigns,” Marwell said. “A lot of these are going to start in January and it’s really all about leveraging earned media and social media to raise ACP awareness and engage trusted institutions and community-based organizations.”
The outreach campaigns include working with states to setup social media campaigns, creating an ACP training certification program for community-based organizations so that staff in those organizations and others can learn about what the program is and assist people to sign up for it, operating an ACP enrollment dashboard to drive awareness on what enrollment numbers are by community, and publishing ACP adoption toolkits for local leaders and organizations to conduct outreach.
Marwell noted that unconnected households represent a greenfield opportunity for service providers, one his organization estimates at $6.5 billion across the country through leveraging ACP. There is also an additional $1.5 billion revenue opportunity by setting up open access Wi-Fi networks in apartment complexes using BEAD money to increase access in locations where fixed line connectivity may not be economically attractive.
To learn more about EducationSuperHighway’s ACP advocate resources, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.