Get Connected! California: A Call to Action
New Campaign Helps to Close the Digital Divide by Providing Affordable, High-Speed Internet to Low-Income Families
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare throughout our region and nationally the existing and pervasive disparities in access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet. These disparities accelerated through the rapid shift to remote work and learning, online access to vital services, e-commerce, and social connectivity. This Digital Divide hinders the upward mobility of unserved and underserved communities, resulting in inequities across all aspects of life, with profound economic and social impacts on communities.
One important solution to bridging the Digital Divide is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program helping families and households get connected to affordable broadband and devices through a monthly subsidy. The program helps to ensure that eligible households can access affordable high-speed internet for school, work and healthcare, among many other needs.
However, enrollment levels for this important program are very low. More than 385,000 households are eligible for this program in our region, but only 89,675 households have enrolled – just 23% overall. There are still more than 295,000 eligible households which are unenrolled, a gap of 76% must be filled in order to bridge the Digital Divide. Enrollment rates vary by county – see table below. We are leaving behind subsidies for our families worth millions of dollars in monthly Internet subscription fees behind.
Call to Action: CETF Get Connected! CA Statewide Mobilization
A similar gap statewide is why California leaders are mobilizing to greatly expand ACP enrollment. In March 2022, the California Broadband Council (CBC) issued a “Call to Action” to get 90% of all eligible low-income households online by 2024 with high-speed internet service, and 95% by 2027.
In response, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), along with the California Department of Technology (CDT), California Department of Education (CDE), California State Library, and California State Association of Counties (CSAC), are coordinating a statewide mobilization campaign to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) known as GetConnected! California.
Through this campaign, partners will distribute ACP information to all eligible recipients, and are working together with a statewide network of community-based organizations (CBOs) who are the “trusted messengers” to organize in-person sign-up locations to assist residents in ACP enrollment.
The direct communications and mobilization campaign is focused on August 2022 as the first Get Connected! California month, when students are returning to school and in coordination with back- to-school activities. The mobilization efforts will distribute information about the ACP benefit, eligibility requirements, and where to get enrollment help to reach every family with a child on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), all participants on Medi-Cal and CalFresh, Pell grant students, and library patrons in priority neighborhoods throughout the state.
Get Connected! California mobilization is happening now! Given that 90% of the ACP-Eligible Households are on Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and National School Lunch Program, the first phase of organizing has been to ensure that all Counties and Schools (with support of State Agencies) are preparing to reach all the households on these public assistance programs.
In our region we are working with partners on strategies to enroll eligible households for the ACP. Some of the activities include:
- Promoting Get Connected! California through local contacts
- Distributing information to eligible households
- Hosting an enrollment assistance site on Get Connected! California Day – August 27, 2022
- Coordinating Get Connected! California activities for your county
- Supporting future Get Connected California! events and activities, including back to school activities
- PSA placement
With all our combined efforts, unserved and underserved households who are eligible will have access to affordable high-speed internet and we will be one step closer to bridging the Digital Divide. Let’s all mobilize together to bring broadband access to the most disadvantaged communities!
Thank you to all our partners, and a huge thank you to the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) in leading this “Call to Action” and for supporting Valley Vision in this effort!
See below for more information on the ACP program.
The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): Who is Eligible?
Program Benefits for Eligible Households:
- A discount of up to $30/month for internet service
- A discount of up to $75/month towards internet service for households on qualifying Tribal lands
- A one-time discount of up to $100 towards purchase of laptops, computers, or tablets from participating providers
Affordable Connectivity Program Eligibility:
Per the FCC program guidelines, a household is eligible if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program;
- Participates in one of these assistance programs:
- The National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
- or Lifeline;
- Participates in one of these assistance programs and lives on Qualifying Tribal lands:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal TANF
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Tribal Head Start (income based)
Visit California Department of Technology’s webpage for Broadband For All to track enrollment in your county and region, where up to date information and enrollment progress is made available by CETF in partnership with the Geographical Information Center at Chico State Enterprises (CSE).
To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!
Kathy Saechou is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting its Clean Economy and broadband initiatives.
Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, and broadband initiatives.