‘Mind the Gap’ report offers new insight on home internet and the ACP
Written by Connected Nation Research Assistant, Shauna Plath (Albany, NY)
Albany, New York (September 28, 2023) - Last weekend, Connected Nation (CN) researchers presented findings from the organization’s “Mind the Gap” report at the Research Conference on Communications, Information, and Internet Policy (TPRC) in Washington, D.C. We want to share some of the key findings from the report, discuss why people are talking about Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) funding, and address next steps.
The report, compiled with support from AT&T, highlights the importance of closing the Digital Divide with a focus on the ACP, a program intended to improve broadband access and adoption among low-income households.
What is the ACP?
The ACP is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bill designed to improve the country’s aging infrastructure with projects ranging from repairing bridges to improving broadband access. The goal of the ACP is to expand broadband use among low-income households by discounting the monthly cost of internet and computing devices. Through this program, qualified households can receive a discount up to $30 per month on home internet service, or $75 per month for households in qualified tribal areas or areas that states designate as “high-cost areas.” Additionally, eligible households can also receive up to $100 off on the purchase of a computer or tablet.
Unfortunately, not everyone who is qualified for ACP has been enrolling in the program, limiting its potential impact. CN wanted to understand why low-income households aren’t subscribing to home internet service and what barriers prevent these households from participating in the ACP. We also wanted to gain further insight from those who have participated in the program by hearing their direct feedback.
CN surveyed 1,758 households across five metropolitan markets where at least one internet service provider (ISP) participates in the ACP (Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Milwaukee, Wis.; and San Francisco, Calif.), According to the results:
· For low-income respondents without home internet service, the top reason (32.8%) for not subscribing at home is the ability to access the internet someplace else, like school or work, followed by their ability to go online using a smartphone or similar device (32.0%). Another 8.8% of low-income respondents emphasize that the monthly cost of home internet service is too expensive, which deters them from subscribing.
· The most common barriers to ACP participation among low-income households are a lack of general awareness and familiarity with the program, and concerns about eligibility.
· Among those who did participate in the ACP, participants said enrollment wasn’t too difficult, and they were largely satisfied with the process. This program allowed participants to use their internet connections for homework, working from home, participating in video meetings, and taking online classes.
Despite barriers to enrollment in the ACP, 20 million eligible families have enrolled and benefitted from the program as of August 2023. However, the $14.2 billion allocated to the ACP is projected to run out by early 2024. Some members of U.S. Congress have been critical of the program, while others have been pushing for an extension of ACP funding beyond 2024. The loss of funding would be detrimental to those who have relied on the ACP to access affordable internet and could mean the loss of internet entirely for some.
To learn more about the ACP and Connected Nation’s survey results, view the full report here.
Photos from the Research Conference on Communications, Information, and Internet Policy (TPRC).