Guest Blog by Nate Stone, program administrator, Technology Education and Access | Digital Inclusion, Denver Public Library
Soon after launching our digital navigator program in Denver, Colorado, we discovered that one of the biggest challenges in signing community members up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was walking them through the bewildering array of options available for service. What is the difference between wired and hotspot service? What does a data cap really mean? Will I have to pay extra for installation? What’s the difference between 10 Mbps and 200 Mbps?
To try and make that process easier, we developed a speed and price comparison chart of local ISPs who accept ACP to use while we talk with community members. It also includes some practical estimates of how much data 10GB really is and how much speed certain activities require. This helps customers consider data caps and speeds.
At Denver Public Library, we’ve found this super useful for helping folks sort through all the different options and make a decision for what will best fit their needs – especially since the tool puts all this information on one page.
The other benefit of this tool is that it has allowed us to navigate another challenge: a lot of the providers who participated in Lifeline before ACP and EBB (Assurance, Cricket, etc) are pushing new ACP plans where they offer “broadband packages.” While it is convenient for customers to be able to use both benefits with one provider, the “broadband” being offered is usually being able to use your phone as a 4G hotspot with a 10GB or so data cap. For anyone who has multiple users in one household, or is trying to do anything requiring speed or larger amounts of data – online classes, video, etc. – they can run into the limitations with these types of plans (and the fees associated with going over the cap) very quickly.
With this table, we can share with community members how much more value they can get from a real broadband connection (wired, or at least 5G hotspot), and, in the end, the individual can make an educated decision about what works best for their household.
If you’d like to make your own version of the comparison tool, you’ll have to do some work to make it relevant to your city. Our process was:
- Look at the list of internet service providers who participate in ACP for your location and download the data.
- Then weed out that list, because it will include a bunch of ISPs who don’t actually provide service in your area.
- Pick some zip codes you’re targeting in your community and use an address in that zip code on ISP’s websites to get an idea of what they’re actually offering. This will probably vary pretty wildly by neighborhood, so the final numbers you come up with always have to be introduced to community members as estimates.
- Put that range of prices and speeds in your copy of the table. We also found broadbandnow.com useful to get information on additional charges and early termination fees that can be difficult to find out about until you sign up for service. But do not rely fully on broadbandnow.com for pricing as they may not have non-promotional or up to date information.
We hope this is useful to other communities – and we’d love to hear from you if you make any tweaks to make it more useful or accurate.