Building off of its recent announcement to devote $70 million of funding to promote the agency’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) nationwide, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published notice of funding announcements totaling $10 million for grants to organizations that will undertake the promotion efforts.
The FCC said its outreach effort is looking to enlist “trusted community messengers” to “develop innovative outreach strategies to reach historically unserved and underserved communities, including those serving recipients of federal housing assistance and communities interested in launching digital navigator programs.”
Through the grant programs, community partners will be provided with the funding needed to increase participation among eligible, low-income households in need of internet connections.
“Building trust in new Federal programs is key to ensuring their success. Working with local organizations and leaders who know how to serve their communities’ needs helps build this trust,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
“We have seen this play out in the success of our Affordable Connectivity Program to date, but are aware more can be done to get the word out about this program to everyone who could qualify,” she said. “Through these one-year pilot program outreach grants, we hope to learn more about how to better market these programs, including how participants can reach out to those receiving federal housing assistance and help households overcome enrollment barriers. With this announcement, we remain committed to our outreach partners and the work they are doing to ensure everyone, everywhere has the internet connections they need to thrive.”
Per the announcement, the FCC issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for up to $5 million for the Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program (YHYI) Outreach Grants, and up to $5 million for the ACP Navigator Pilot Program (NPP) Outreach Grants. NOFO will only apply to pilot participants seeking grant funds; those participants who will self-fund the pilot will not be required to adhere to the NOFO requirements. Applications are due by Jan. 9, 2023.
The ACP is a $14.2 billion FCC benefit program that was created in December 2021. The ACP replaced the FCC’s previous Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which launched in February 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACP helps ensure that qualifying low-income households can afford the broadband they need. To date, the program has served more than 14 million households. The ACP is looking to expand and diversify its outreach efforts, with the ultimate goal of increasing ACP enrollment.
The YHYI Outreach Grants will provide funding to eligible state, local, and Tribal housing agencies or non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, and tenant association partners to Federal, state, local, or Tribal housing agencies for outreach activities to increase awareness and encourage participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program for households receiving Federal housing assistance.
The FCC explained that the one-year pilot program will allow the agency to test the best methods for helping consumers receiving qualifying Federal housing assistance available through Department of Housing and Urban Development programs and administered at the Federal, Tribal, regional, and local level to learn about and enroll in the ACP.
“Through federal housing assistance, millions of Americans have access to a home. It’s time to help them take advantage of ACP to access affordable Internet as well,” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “There is a particular nexus between housing and connectivity: if we can help a family secure housing, we should be able to help them secure an Internet connection as well. Learning from the results of the innovative activities deployed as part of YHYI will help to achieve this goal, while providing a template for solutions that can be expanded nationwide to improve ACP awareness and enrollment.”
The ACP Navigator Pilot Program (NPP) Outreach Grants is a one-year pilot program that provides funding to support outreach activities by trusted, neutral third-party entities – such as schools and school districts or other local or state government entities – with access to the National Verifier for purposes of assisting consumers with applying for the ACP, the FCC said in a press release.