Since the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, many federal agencies, states, localities, nonprofits, and other stakeholders have been working to ensure these new resources are implemented equitably across the country. With $65 billion dedicated to closing the digital divide, the Infrastructure Law represents the most significant federal investment in internet connectivity, and is a tremendous opportunity to advance digital inclusion work. At LISC, we are working alongside other community organizations to ensure that this expanded funding is directed to disinvested communities and helps close racial gaps in health, wealth, and opportunity.

For the digital divide to shrink, all households, whether in rural, urban, or suburban areas, must be able to access reliable, affordable broadband options that strengthen communities through connectivity. The work of digital inclusion is essential to supporting broader efforts to improve educational, financial, health, and housing outcomes. That’s why the Infrastructure Law’s investments in this work were critical: up to 42 million people in the U.S. still lack access, and that deficit disproportionately impacts tribal and low-income communities, and communities of color.

For many of the unconnected, broadband is prohibitively expensive, but the Infrastructure Law’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) offers a solution by providing long-term income support to cover these household expenses. The ACP benefit offers a discount of up to $30 per month toward broadband service for eligible households whose income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a household member participates in certain federal assistance programs. Households on qualifying Tribal lands may receive a discount of up to $75 per month, and all enrolled households may also receive a one-time discount to help purchase devices.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a long-term initiative enacted with bipartisan support through the Infrastructure Law that replaced the short-term Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) to help families afford high-quality broadband services. EBB was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, providing an initial $3.2 billion to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to temporarily help Americans afford internet service during the pandemic. It launched in May 2021 and enrollment ended in December 2021.

Public response to the EBB program demonstrated the longer-term need to address broadband affordability and the pending wind-down of the EBB threatened to disconnect newly connected households. Congress acted by including the ACP within the broader Infrastructure Law, offering low-income households a new benefit that helps pay for broadband service and internet-connected devices. In doing so, they reduced the EBB benefit from $50 to $30 per month for most households, while expanding how families can qualify, among other changes. ACP enrollment opened on December 31, 2021, and remains open for eligible households.

Read the full article about broadband internet access by Michelle Harati at LISC.