Common Sense Media announced Monday a new campaign in Arizona to create awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program, an effort to bridge the digital divide for lower-income families.
The program is the first of its kind for lower-income families to afford high-speed internet. A federal discount provides households with up to $30 per month (or $75 per month on tribal lands) toward internet service, plus a one-time discount of up to $100 for a computer or tablet.
Eligible households include families with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and those who qualify for Lifeline, SNAP, free and reduced--rice School lunch, WIC, and other government-funded programs.
The effort is meant to provide a source of connection after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the discrepancy of internet connections and provide online access is essential for work, learning and health care. At the same time, it remains out of reach for millions in the U.S.
"In today's world, we all need access to fast and reliable internet," said Ilana Lowery, Arizona director for Common Sense. "Too many people are still experiencing the frustration that comes with using a slow internet connection or depending on a cellphone to perform essential online activities such as doing homework, applying for a job, learning a new skill, or participating in a telehealth call. The ACP makes fast and reliable internet connectivity at home more affordable so that all families can have access to what is now a basic life necessity."
Common Sense is launching its first public awareness campaign in Arizona, where only 25% of the 1,075,000 eligible households are currently receiving the monthly benefit. The effort will then expand to other communities.
The 12-week bilingual paid advertising campaign will include public service announcements across local television and radio stations, digital and outdoor ads, grassroots outreach, and a call center to support enrollment.
Consumers will be directed to call a toll-free number or visit getmyinternet.org, where information and eligibility requirements about the ACP are available in both English and Spanish. Common Sense, through a partnership with the Digital Equity Institute, is turning Arizona State University's internal tech-support hotline into an enrollment support service for the wider Phoenix community to help families navigate the application process and get them connected to the internet.
"The ACP plays a vital part in closing the digital divide. We know that affordability remains one of the greatest obstacles to equal opportunity and full participation in society," said Erin Carr-Jordan, managing director of the Digital Equity Institute. "By partnering with Common Sense and the digital navigators from ASU's Experience Center, we leverage our collective strengths to drive awareness of and enrollment in ACP so residents in the city of Phoenix get the connectivity they need."
Congress and the Biden administration created the program last year as part of the historic bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,a $1.5 trillion, 10-year investment in infrastructure across the country, including $65 billion to help ensure that every family and business in America is connected to high-speed internet.
The law represents the single-largest investment toward broadband accessibility and is a huge step toward one of Common Sense's top priorities: closing the digital divide for good.
Common Sense research has shown the digital divide affects every state in the country, mostly impacting underserved households that lack service in urban, suburban, rural, and tribal communities.
In Arizona, 335,558 students, about 29% of all students in the state, and 4,757 teachers (10%) lack adequate internet access. Bridging the divide through historic investments like the ACP remains essential to reduce inequality, improve educational opportunity, and accelerate economic growth.
For information about the ACP, visit getmyinternet.org.