An effort to boost awareness of the year-old Affordable Connectivity Program is getting more local after earlier attempts to promote it statewide resulted in just 23% of eligible Colorado households signing up to get up to $30 off their internet bills.
To get the rest of the 77% signed up, state officials feel that the campaign needs to go analog and provide help right in local libraries, schools and community centers.
In a news conference Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera announced the new Colorado ACP Act Now, an initiative that includes partnering with the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway and 71 public libraries, city governments, internet providers and others statewide to help their neighbors get connected in person. The organization is providing training and tools at no charge to Colorado.
“We know the broadband affordability gap disproportionately affects low income families and individuals who have less than high school education and communities of color,” Primavera said. “So, to close the gap we need to ensure unconnected households know about the Affordable Connectivity Program and have the help that they need to enroll.”
Subsidizing Americans’ internet service became a priority during the pandemic as millions of people were stuck at home. Those with subpar internet service, or none at all, had difficulty attending school remotely, or had few work-from-home options. The federal Emergency Broadband Benefits provided $50 a month to pay for internet service but ended in late 2021. ACP replaced EBB in January.
Much is the same except that it’s now $30 per household. However, in response to the ACP’s creation, many of the larger internet providers created $30 broadband plans so the service would essentially be free. Households that meet certain income levels and use one of 114 registered internet providers in Colorado get up to $30 off their monthly bill. For those living on tribal lands, the monthly payment is $75. Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and set aside $14.2 billion to fund ACP.
As of Wednesday, 181,867 households in Colorado had enrolled. State officials estimate that 800,000 are eligible, which means 23% have signed up.
Evan Maxwell, CEO and founder of EducationSuperHighway, said his company started in 2013 with a mission to get America’s K-12 schools connected to decent internet. That task, he said, is more or less accomplished, with 99.7% of schools served. The company has since turned to increasing ACP awareness and adoption to help states find those eligible households who really could use faster internet.
“Only 31% of households nationally and 23% of households in Colorado have signed up for the program,” Maxwell said. “The goal of this campaign is to drive eligible households to a mobile website called GetACP.org/Colorado. … It’s a soup-to-nuts place for people to go to get started in the process.”
At the site, users can quickly figure out if they’re eligible, get their documentation together, see if there are local internet plans that are free to them, and find the easiest way to apply. Most users must first get approved by the federal government at affordableconnectivity.gov and then let their internet provider know.
But if potential users are still confused, that’s where the 71 local organizations come in. Those include Alamosa Public Library, the city of Greeley, telecom provider DISH Wireless and the Ute Mountain Communication Enterprise. They’re getting trained by EducationSuperHighway’s LearnACP on how to work with users in person to enroll in ACP.
“If we can bring Colorado to the national best practice rates of 61% adoption, it means that 309,000 more households in Colorado will have access to the internet,” Maxwell said.
Are you eligible?
- Families must have incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (for a family of two, that’s less than $39,400, and a family of four is $60,000). >> See income limits
- Or qualify for Lifeline, SNAP, free and reduced-price school lunch, WIC or other government-funded programs.
- A customer of a participating internet provider. >> Search enrolled ISPs
- Get approved at affordableconnectivity.gov
- Some internet services take it from there but you may need to let them know you’ve been approved.
- Need help? Use the new portal: GetACP.org/Colorado
The 71 local organizations participating
- Adams County School District 14
- Alamosa Public Library
- Archdiocesan Housing
- Basalt Regional Library
- Beulahland Communications
- Bridging Digital Divides
- Broomfield Public Library
- Brush School District
- Burlington School District
- City and County of Broomfield
- City of Arvada
- City of Aurora
- City of Castle Pines
- City of Greeley
- Clearnetworx, LLC
- CoCreate, LLC
- Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind
- Colorado Community Action Association
- Colorado Mountain College
- Colorado State University System
- Community College of Aurora
- Community Computer Connection – C3
- Concorde Career College
- Connected Communities
- Denver Mayor’s Office of Social Equity and Innovation
- Denver Regional Council of Governments
- DISH Wireless
- Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association
- Force Broadband
- Fort Collins Connexion
- Fort Lewis College
- Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado
- Jewish Family Service of Colorado
- La Plata County
- Larimer County
- Lincoln County Bookmobile
- Littleton Public Schools
- Live Wire Networks
- Lone Cone Library
- Loveland Public Library
- Loveland Pulse
- Lyons Communications
- Naropa University
- Nucla-Naturita Telephone Company
- Nunn Telephone Company
- Pathfinder Broadband
- Pine River Library
- Plains Cooperative Telephone
- Range Telephone Cooperative
- Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
- San Luis Valley Broadband Coordination Office
- Starry Internet
- Teach by Tech
- Telluride School District
- Town of Breckenridge
- Town of Eagle
- Town of Ordway
- Town of Red Cliff
- Tri-Lakes Cares
- University of Northern Colorado
- Upper Pine River Fire Protection District
- Ute Mountain Communication Enterprise
- Visionary Communications
- West Custer County Library District
- Westminster Public Library