The Transformative Power of the Affordable Connectivity Program
This week, the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) announced a new milestone. Launched nearly two years ago, it has now connected more than 20 million households to the Internet. This is a remarkable achievement and we at Comcast are proud to participate in the program. The ACP provides families with a $30/month benefit, $75/month on Tribal lands, toward their Internet bill.
When applied to Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus tiers, it makes connectivity to the Internet effectively free. However, we still face the challenge of getting millions more ACP-eligible households to enroll. Great progress is being made to close the digital divide, but too many families, in communities across the nation, have yet to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Since day one, Comcast has been working to raise awareness about the ACP, and we are investing in hundreds of non-profit partners because closing that divide cannot be achieved without collaboration. For this reason, we are supporting Digital Navigators – people who teach digital skills at the neighborhood level – because we know they are key to the trust-building necessary for success.
A great example of that kind of partnership is our commitment as a founding partner of the Online For All campaign with Civic Nation and the U.S. Department of Education. Together with other companies and the federal government, this coalition is working aggressively to enroll even more eligible Americans in the ACP.
From our headquarters in Philadelphia, to Houston, Portland, Atlanta, and beyond, I have personally met with dozens and dozens of parents, students, seniors, veterans, and entrepreneurs who have had their lives transformed by an Internet connection, especially one that is home-based.
A high school student who found scholarships to pay for college. A single mother who completed a job training program. A senior who now schedules her own telemedicine appointments from the comfort of home.
What do these three people have in common? They were all connected to the Internet because of the ACP. Here are their stories:
Llulisa – Philadelphia, PA
As a high-school student who was not connected to the Internet at home, Llulisa had to get to school early or stay late to use the WiFi to do her homework. During the pandemic, she worried she might not be able to stay on track and keep her grades up so she could apply to college. Fortunately, Llulisa’s brother heard about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program at a local community center and helped their mom sign up for Internet service at home. The family has since enrolled in the ACP and their home Internet service is now fully covered by the benefit. Today, Llulisa is proud to be the first person in her family to go to college, and she is well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming an immigration lawyer.
Alisha – Eastern Shore, MD
As a single mother of two children, Alisha is not only using the Internet to help her sons with schoolwork and college applications, but she’s also using it to pursue her own career growth. Alisha recently completed a healthcare certification course with our partners at Goodwill, in part by using her home Internet connection. Alisha credits the ACP with helping her more effectively juggle raising her children, working, and volunteering in her local community. Not only has the ACP benefited her, but it also helped her son, who is now enrolled at Delaware State University. In her words, “the Internet is as essential as the air we breathe.” Having it at home has helped make a big difference for her and her family.
Gayla – Houston, TX
During a holiday event in Houston, Gayla received a free laptop from Comcast. Instead of keeping it for herself, however, she gave it to her 87-year-old mother and helped her enroll in the ACP. With her new computer and Internet connection, Gayla’s mother can now participate in telemedicine appointments without having to spend hours navigating public transportation to get across town and back. In addition, she can stay in better contact with friends and family from the comfort of her home, which brings her joy every day.
These three individuals are just a few of the millions of students, families, and others who have been positively impacted by the ACP. Whether it’s improving economic mobility through education, accessing telehealth and telemedicine, or simply enjoying all the news, weather, and entertainment the Internet puts at our fingertips, it’s undeniable that having the Internet at home, a computer, and the skills to use it are truly life changing.
Unfortunately, the success of the ACP is causing an emerging dilemma. The $14 billion allocated to the FCC to provide vouchers to eligible households is likely to be exhausted early next year. Congress and the Biden Administration must work together to ensure that the ACP is fully funded – so Llulisa, Alisha, Gayla, and tens of millions of Americans aren’t left without affordable Internet when the initial allocation of funding for the program is runs out.
As FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said today, “We’ve made too much progress in helping families get online to turn back now.”
Broderick D. Johnson is Executive Vice President, Public Policy and Executive Vice President, Digital Equity for Comcast Corporation.