FCC Establishes Outreach Grants and ‘Your Home Your Internet’ to Raise Awareness for ACP
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted unanimously to establish two programs: The Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program and the Your Home Your Internet Pilot Program. Both aim to raise awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) among eligible households.
Neither program is yet accepting applications or distributing funds, rather, the August 5 vote to establish them was the first in a series of steps that will lead to funding for communities to increase ACP awareness and enrollment. Each program’s Report and Order contain a lot of information, and they are separate and distinct programs but we’ve summarized some of the key points about eligibility, funding, and timelines below.
We’re thrilled this grant program will soon launch, as it is an incredible opportunity for our community to get funding for work it’s already doing–reaching people who have been routinely left behind in the digital age and helping them sign up for the ACP subsidy.
If you’d like to learn more, please join us at our webinar explaining these programs on August 23, 2022 at 3 p.m. ET.
Note: The FCC has not released guidance regarding the ACP Navigator Pilot and we do not discuss it here. We will notify you when the they release additional information.
Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program
Since the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB) (ACP’s predecessor) launched in 2021, NDIA and our affiliates have advocated for outreach and enrollment support for trusted community organizations. While over 12 million people are enrolled in the ACP program, the missing component has been funding for locally driven outreach and enrollment activities. This new grant program will change that.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provided the FCC with the authority to issue grants for ACP outreach, engagement, and advertising to individual organizations. The FCC took the first step toward building this grant program last week.
The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB), a department within the FCC, will develop and administer the Outreach Grant Program. The program will provide support to eligible governmental and non-governmental entities (aka community-based organizations, community anchor institutions, etc.) to raise awareness and encourage participation in ACP among eligible households. But the funds aren’t available just yet.
The CGB will first develop and publish a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to open the application process for potential applicants. The NOFO will include more information about the Outreach Grant Program, including information about the application requirements and eligible activities. We expect the NOFO to be released in fall 2022.
The application process for federal grant programs is often confusing and cumbersome, so it’s reassuring to see that the FCC will provide technical assistance to applicants.This was a key element NDIA previously advocated for when the FCC first sought input on constructing the program. \
One of the Outreach Grant Program’s major goals is to reach people less likely to have broadband. To accomplish this goal, grant applicants will be evaluated, in part, based on their ties to “populations of focus”– who the FCC defines as: people of color, persons with disabilities, persons who live in rural or Tribal areas, and others who are or have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
Our read of the Report and Order is that applicants with current or past success in targeted outreach and/or enrollment of “populations of focus” or who already serve these populations in their communities will likely be more competitive. The NOFO will give more details about how applicants will be evaluated.
Types of Eligible Entities for ACP Outreach Grant Program
Organizations eligible to participate in the Outreach Grant Program include, but are not limited to:
- Nonprofit organizations
- Community-based organizations (including faith-based organizations and social service organizations)
- Community anchor institutions (e.g., healthcare providers, healthcare organizations, libraries, and library consortia)
- Public service organizations
- Public housing authorities
- Tribal governments and subdivisions, as well as Tribal organizations
- State governments and subdivisions (including the District of Columbia and US territories)
- Local governments and subdivisions (including county, borough, municipality, city, town, township, parish, local public authority, special district, intrastate district, council of governments, and agencies or instrumentalities of multi-regional or intra-state or local government)
- Social service providers (e.g., food banks, community transportation, childcare)
- Education organizations, such as schools and other institutions of higher education
- Workforce development training organizations
- Consortia of the entities listed above
Funding Amount for ACP Outreach Grant Program
The CGB will allot funding for the grants in a few ways: 1) formula-based allocation to states and US territories, 2) competitive allocation to Tribal governments and organizations, and 3) a nationwide competitive pool. The FCC allotted a five year window to disperse the grant funding, however, the CGB will determine the pace of the funding disbursement (more money may be front-loaded in the first few years to maximize the impact of the funding). The CGB will award grants until the ACP’s end date is announced, or until all grant funds are disbursed.
Although a comprehensive list of allowable uses of the grant funds will not be available until the CGB releases a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the FCC outlined the following activities as effective means for ACP outreach to targeted communities: “in-person events, literature campaigns, digital campaigns, and paid media campaigns.”
‘Your Home Your Internet’ Pilot Program
The second program the FCC established during its August 5 open meeting is the “Your Home Your Internet” Pilot Program. The one-year pilot program aims to raise awareness of the ACP benefit and ease some of the pain points in the application process experienced by applicants who reside in federal public housing.
Households that receive federal public housing assistance (FPHA) are eligible for ACP, but as we outlined in our previous comments to the FCC, these households face unique barriers to enrollment, like a clunky and cumbersome enrollment process.
This pilot incorporates key solutions NDIA advocated for: 1) designated funding for outreach specifically tailored to housing assistance recipients and 2) expanded access to the National Verifier to nonprofit and community-based organizations working in partnership with federal agencies in the pilot program.
We see these as strong improvements to the application process and a win for all our affiliates who highlighted the specialized needs of these communities. You can find more information about this program in the Your Home Your Internet Pilot Program Report and Order, and we’ll summarize the key features of the program below.
‘Your Home Your Internet’ Pilot Eligibility and Funding
The “Your Home, Your Internet” pilot program is a one-year pilot that will initially include 20 participants from rural, urban, and Tribal communities. The CGB may open more spots for the pilot depending on demand and other factors. The FCC has allocated $5 million in grant funding for this, and pilot program participants can apply for other funding opportunities they qualify for under the ACP Outreach Grant Program. If you need to supplement the pilot program, we encourage you to check the eligibility criteria for the ACP Outreach Grant Program and apply.
Types of Eligible Entities for ‘Your Home Your Internet’
Priority will be given to pilot applications that target areas with lower ACP enrollment and where digital navigators and application assistants will be most impactful in addressing the barriers federal housing assistance recipients face. The pilot program is open to federal and non-federal entities including:
- nonprofit and community-based organizations working with federal housing assistance recipients
- federal agencies and their partners
- state, local, and Tribal housing agencies
Funded Activities in ‘Your Home Your Internet’
The Wireline Competition Bureau, a department within the FCC, will release a public notice outlining the eligible funding activities the pilot will support. Broadly, they are:
- Outreach: Activities designed to raise awareness of ACP, including toolkits and outreach material tailored for organizations working with federal housing assistance recipients
- Application Assistance: Participants will have limited access to the National Verifier to help people apply for ACP. The National Verifier is a centralized system that determines whether applicants are eligible for ACP and accepts documentation for verification. Allowing trusted entities access to this system will speed up the enrollment process for most applicants.
Application Improvements for FPHA Applicants
The FCC and USAC will make changes to the ACP application process that will ease the enrollment process for all federal housing assistance recipients—even those not working with pilot program participants. During the one-year life of the pilot, the FCC will evaluate the effectiveness of these solutions, and that will help them learn what worked and what didn’t.
Below are application and enrollment improvements targeted to applicants receiving federal public housing assistance:
- Updated enrollment materials will include more recognizable language to describe FPHA eligibility. This will make it easier for participants in Native American affordable housing, public housing, housing choice voucher, and project-based rental assistance programs to identify the program they participate in.
- A revised data sharing agreement between the FCC, USAC, and HUD will increase the number of federal housing assistance recipients that can be automatically approved for ACP through the National Verifier.
- Process improvements to the manual review process (required for some applications) will help USAC make eligibility determinations more quickly.
What’s Next for ‘Your Home Your Internet’ Pilot Program
The Wireline Competition Bureau is the entity that will select participants for this pilot and will release a public notice announcing the pilot application with details about the requirements and timelines on or before October 7, 2022. Once the announcement is made, applicants will have at least 28 days to apply.
Learn More about the ACP Outreach Grant Program and Your Home Your Internet
NDIA will host a webinar on the Outreach Grant Program and the Your Home Your Internet Pilot Program on August 23, 2022 at 3 p.m. ET. Click the button below to register.