Oh, the internet — today so many people are online almost constantly. The thought of being on an airplane or a remote forest and out of touch can bring on panic. Today we not only learn, communicate with friends and loved ones and shop online, but many of us worship, do our jobs or conduct our financial affairs completely online.
And yet so many people in the United States still have a tenuous connection to the internet. Whether that is because of where someone lives or the funds to spend, not everyone is connected. And for people whose biggest barrier is cost, a connection one month can quickly turn into a blank screen the next, as an unexpected expense consumes the funds for this month’s internet bill.
But here is the good news. The United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry, along with a huge number of allies from the civil rights and public interest communities, successfully persuaded Congress to adopt a new program.
This week, the same week as Juneteenth a great celebration of liberation, is also a week of action on the new Affordable Connectivity Program.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal program designed to help low-income households pay for broadband internet service. Once an eligible household completes an application and is approved, it will receive a discount of up to $30 per month off its bill for mobile or home broadband internet services (up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands). The federal funds go directly to the service provider to cover the discount. In some cases, the subsidy will completely cover the cost of the internet service.
Who Is Eligible?
You are eligible for ACP if anyone in your household:
- Receives certain income-based federal benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), federal public housing assistance or Medicaid benefits;
- Receives Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program benefits or qualifies for the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast programs;
- Received a federal Pell Grant during the current school year;
- Participates in other programs, including tribal and veterans programs.
You might be pre-qualified if you are eligible!
Many programs and states are connected already to the ACP database, you may be able to show you are eligible with a few clicks. Call to get help at 1–877–384–2575 or email ACPSupport@usac.org. Help is available 7 days a week between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. ET.
Visit www.getinternet.gov to find out if you are eligible and to sign up.
The United Church of Christ Commitment
Since the adoption of a 1997 General Synod resolution, the United Church of Christ has formally recognized the need to ensure that our society does not become divided between those who are “information rich” and those who are “information poor,” leaving struggling people without the tools they need to succeed in today’s society. This year, in 2023, we will vote again as a national denomination to commit ourselves to equitable and affordable high-quality access to communications for everyone.
Church members and whole congregations can help!
Use the UCC Media Justice toolkit to help your neighbors get online. Distribute flyers where families will get them. And offering to sit with someone as they complete a form or assist them while they call a helpline phone number can make all the difference!
Congress must act to maintain the program!
In just one year, 18.5 million qualifying households have enrolled in the ACP, which has proven to be an essential resource for individuals and families across the country. We need Congress to renew funding for the ACP before millions of Americans lose their ability to connect.
Join with our allies at Common Cause to contact your Congressional representative and urge them to protect the ACP by restoring its funding!