It has been nearly a year since the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) – a $14.2 billion dollar opportunity created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The ACP aims to close the digital divide by assisting qualifying low-income households with affording broadband service. Qualifying households can receive a $30 monthly discount on internet service and up to a $75 monthly discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands. The FCC reported more than 15 million households nationwide have enrolled in the program.
Check out this separate blog outlining how households can qualify for the ACP benefit and other key information. Read on to learn how you can connect your residents to this program!
Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program Overview and Eligibility
Recently, the FCC announced two separate notice of funding opportunities for the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program. The Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program seeks to expand innovative outreach efforts to increase ACP awareness and enrollment specifically to reach historically unserved and underserved populations. It is comprised of four complementary grant programs:
- National Competitive Outreach Program (NCOP)
- Tribal Competitive Outreach Program (TCOP)
- Your Home, Your Internet (YHYI) Outreach Grants
- Affordable Connectivity Program Navigator Pilot Program (NPP) Grants
The first notice of funding opportunity released was for the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program and consists of the first two programs: the National Competitive Outreach Program and the Tribal Community Outreach Program. The total competitive funding available in this notice of funding is $70 million, with the exception of some of the funds which will be reserved for States.
Local governments and their entities are eligible to apply directly to the competitive ACP Outreach Grant Program by the deadline of January 9, 2023. If a local government is also a municipal broadband provider, the broadband division is ineligible to apply. However, the other arms of the municipality that do not maintain, manage or operate the municipal broadband network are still eligible.
There are a handful of evaluation factors for applications listed in the notice of funding opportunity (detailed below). Local officials and staff should refer to the full text of the notice of funding opportunity to read about other evaluation factors and important details that may inform their application.
- The extent to which an applicant would target underserved low-income households or individuals that are not currently on a low-income broadband plan or that do not have broadband service.
- The extent to which an applicant would target outreach in communities that have low ACP participation rates, to include those that plan to target especially hard-to-reach populations, including minorities, persons with disabilities, persons who live in rural or Tribal areas, and others who are or have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
Corresponding Pilot Program Grants Overview and Eligibility
In addition to the ACP Outreach Grant Program notice of funding, the FCC recently released a second notice of funding opportunity titled “Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program – Pilot Program Grants” for the remaining two pilot programs: the Your Home, Your Internet Outreach Grants and the Affordable Connectivity Program Navigator Pilot Program Grants. The total competitive funding for the pilot program notice of funding is $10 million and is expected to fund fewer awards. Both pilot programs are for a duration of one year.
Like the first notice of funding opportunity, local governments and their entities are eligible to apply for the pilot program funding by the deadline of January 9, 2023.
For FY 2023, the notice of funding opportunity provides that funds will be awarded based on the following three factors. Interested cities, towns or villages should refer to the full text of the notice of funding opportunity to learn more about priorities of the program and other eligibility factors that may inform their application.
- Pilot Program allocation maximum pursuant to the Third Report and Order.
- Merit-based review of application submissions.
- Risk assessment to confirm the financial stability and operational capacity of the applicant.
All applicants must have a System of Awards Management (SAM.gov) login and a unique entity identifier (UEI). If your city, town or village is already registered with SAM.gov, a UEI number has already been assigned and is viewable at SAM.gov. If your municipality does not have a UEI number yet, U.S. agencies are encouraging entities to apply for a UEI number immediately to be eligible to apply for federal grants.
The ACP plays an essential role in bridging the digital divide across the nation. The programs that have been overviewed above provide an important opportunity for local leaders to help their eligible residents and communities get connected!
Data to Help You Understand Your Community’s Enrollment
Shortly after the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, NLC released a Digital Equity Playbook as a resource to inform local governments on steps they can take to close the digital divide.
As part of that launch, NLC created an interactive dashboard that hosts data at the community level on key digital equity measures. On this tool, local leaders can search for their city, town or village and see updated data on Affordable Connectivity Program subscribers for their respective communities. The data compares the subscription rate to another key metric, households in the city under the 200% federal poverty rate, which is one of the ways that households can qualify for the ACP benefit.
This resource can help local leaders understand the status of enrollment in their community and bolster their application efforts to the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program.