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Supporting a Historic Opportunity to Close the Digital Divide

Our new public awareness campaign will help millions who need support to access the benefits of the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Connectivity is essential for modern life, yet millions of Americans live without it. People who are stranded by the digital divide lack access to countless benefits that connectivity offers: education, employment, health care, community, government services, and many more. But for the first time in history, we have an opportunity to close the digital divide for good.

Last year, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) created the $14 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a first-of-its-kind program that provides lower-income households with $30 a month to pay for internet service and $100 to buy a device. Our new public awareness campaign and website——is designed to help eligible families access this potentially life-changing benefit.

The high cost of internet service is the biggest hurdle to connectivity in this country, and the ACP is uniquely designed to help bridge this gap. However, the reality is that one in four eligible households are not using the ACP. Many are unaware of the program's existence, discouraged by its enrollment process, or have grown mistrustful of offers that sound too good to be true. As a result, nearly 35 million households are not getting money they're entitled to. That translates to one billion dollars in aid being left on the table every month.

Our campaign is designed to correct that. The first phase of our campaign has started in Arizona, where only 25% of the 1,075,000 eligible households are currently receiving the monthly benefit. We are raising awareness with a bilingual paid advertising campaign, public service announcements, digital and outdoor ads, and grassroots outreach, and all of this promotion is driving traffic to our website and call center, where people can get expert guidance through the ACP enrollment process.

Our local partners, Arizona State University and the Digital Equity Institute, are hosting the call center and staffing it with 150 digital navigators who understand the intricacies of the ACP enrollment process. We're also excited to be working closely with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego on this effort. Finally, we're providing these newly online ACP households with robust digital inclusion support and resources, which will help them take full advantage of the benefits provided by high-speed internet.

Closing the digital divide in the United States, particularly for students and teachers, has been a top priority at Common Sense for more than 10 years, and we have made significant progress toward this goal. We have been at the cutting edge in identifying the cause and scope of the digital divide, crafting solutions to close it, and helping to usher in new state and federal policies that will ensure every school and household in America has access to affordable, reliable internet, and that kids and families have the skills they need to use the internet safely and effectively.

Our goal is to ensure that every eligible household is able to enroll in the ACP, that they get the high-quality internet available, and that they are equipped with resources that allow them to use their connectivity to the fullest.

Amina Fazlullah

Amina Fazlullah is the Senior Director Equity Policy at Common Sense. Her work focuses on expanding access to technology and digital well-being advocacy. Prior to joining Common Sense, Amina was a Tech Policy Fellow at Mozilla, where she worked to promote broadband connectivity in underserved communities around the world. Amina has also worked with the Benton Foundation, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, for the Honorable Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, and at the FCC.