Affordable Connectivity in Appalachia

The Federal Communications Commission‘s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) reduces internet access barriers by providing eligible households with up to $30 per month to help cover internet bills. More than 3.5 million households in the Appalachian Region qualify for ACP benefits, but only 1.19 million – just over 33% – are enrolled in the program. ARC has long been investing in the expansion and deployment of broadband across the region, but has now has partnered with FCC to help more Appalachian households make their internet more affordable once connected.

How can you engage your community?

ARC’s Broadband Program Manager, Curtis Hansen, joined FCC on a four-day roadtrip through Appalachian Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia to raise awareness about ACP among local officials and community members. Thanks to the National Broadband Resource Hub and Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc., the findings have been compiled into four core steps.

Step #1

Convene Local Leaders

Local leaders have a unique role to play in bridging the participation gap and helping community members access the ACP program. The group who should be convened will differ with every community, but should likely include elected officials, representatives of the schools, libraries, churches, nonprofits, social service organizations, and any other civic- and economically-minded groups.

Step #2

Identify Key Roles

There are two roles, typically filled by local leaders, that every community needs to successfully increase enrollment: educators and communicators.

Educators help community members print and fill out an application or walks them through the process online.

Communicators raise awareness through trusted local platforms, such as verified social media accounts or radio stations.

Step #3

Make an Awareness Plan

Community leaders should begin by focusing on the most vulnerable populations and populations least likely to be aware of the ACP program: seniors, students, veterans, teachers, and social service workers. Ensuring that they understand and can educate their networks about ACP and how to sign up is crucial for success.

Step #4

Follow Up + Adjust as Necessary

Track your community’s participation level using official data or a more interactive tool like this one built by Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Rural LISC). Get feedback on your awareness and enrollment plan from the consumer outreach team at the FCC by emailing ACPinfo@fcc.gov.

Impacts of Community Engagement

After meeting with local leadership across multiple counties, ARC’s Curtis Hansen noted that, while many officials were aware of the ACP program, most were shocked to find out that so few eligible homes participated. They were excited to learn that ARC funding can help ACP enrollment rates and overall digital literacy levels, and are eager to brainstorm the most effective ways to improve community outreach.