- In a new attempt to close the digital divide, students receiving Pell grants will be among those eligible for subsidies for high-speed Internet the program announced Monday the Biden administration.
- The White House estimates that nearly 40 percent of U.S. households will be eligible for the subsidy, which reduces Internet spending to no more than $ 30 a month from the $ 14.2 billion the administration charges. An affordable connection program.
- This is possible thanks to secured commitments from 20 ISPs who promise to lower prices or increase internet speeds for eligible families, the announcement said. Federal agencies will begin to apply to households eligible for ACP based on their income or participation in federal programs, including free or discounted school meals, Pell grants, Medicaid, special meals for women, infants, and children, and others.
There are still problems with connecting families to broadband programs such as ACP, said Doug Casey, chairman of the State Association of Directors of Educational Technology.
At the local level, creativity will be needed to build relationships and partnerships with families to disseminate information and engage eligible subscribers. From there, Casey said, locals can share their feedback at the federal level because there is no single national approach.
So far, 11.5 million of the roughly 48 million eligible families benefit from the ACP, which is funded under the two-party Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act passed in November, the White House said in a statement.
Recent ISP commitments mean that eligible ACP families will often be able to get high-speed broadband for free, President Joe Biden told a news conference Monday, announcing the improvements.
“It means fast Internet, good download speeds, no data limits and no extra fees for millions of American families,” Biden said.
White House activities to gain more access to the ACP program come after the Los Angeles United School District, the second-largest school system in the United States, announced its own $ 50 million effort provide high-speed Internet to their families to bridge the digital divide in the school system.
Although Casey is still optimistic about Biden’s efforts to connect more families to broadband, he said he has seen similar efforts in Connecticut. Casey is also the executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Educational Technology, which the State General Assembly established to integrate technology into schools, libraries, colleges and universities.
For example, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont launched a $ 43.5 million initiative the summer of 2020 will close the digital divide for students by providing 50,000 laptops, connecting 60,000 students to home Internet access during the year and creating 200 public access points. Even with such investments, Casey said, not many Connecticut families accepted the offer as expected.
“When you give people free broadband, you talk to them and you think you’ve reached them, you still haven’t done it,” he said. “You have to tell them over and over and over again from different perspectives that this service is available and, more importantly, that it is valuable.”
People may hesitate to register because in a world full of fraud, it may initially not be obvious that programs like ACP are not trying to deceive eligible families, Casey said. According to him, there may also be language barriers for families living in the US without legal permission who do not feel comfortable sharing their information to confirm the right. Or some people just don’t see the value or don’t want the internet in their homes, Casey added.
Although access to the program has expanded, Casey said that no less promising is that federal agencies will turn to relevant ACP families with whom they are already working on other programs.
EducationSuperHighway, a non-profit organization focused on bridging the digital divide, has developed a free online toolkit for school districts to help families eligible to enroll in the ACP. According to autumn report from groups, 18.1 million people live in settlements with broadband infrastructure but cannot afford a connection.
A key role that districts can play is to raise awareness of the ACP, Jack Lynch, Chief Operating Officer of EducationSuperHighway told the K-12 Dive earlier this year.
“School districts, they are a reliable messenger for their families,” he said. “School districts can play a big role in conveying information.”