NOTE: This blog discusses two Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) pilot programs that may be supported with outreach grant funding, and does not cover the outreach grants that will be available to organizations outside of the pilot programs. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will release a separate notification and funding announcement with information and guidance about other outreach grants unrelated to the pilot programs at a later date. We will update you when that information becomes available.
On October 11, 2022, the FCC released a public notice announcing two, one-year pilot programs designed to increase awareness and facilitate enrollment in ACP: ‘Your Home Your Internet’ Pilot Program and the ‘ACP Navigator’ Pilot Program. The public notice includes eligibility requirements for each pilot and guidance for preparing the application. Once the application window opens, the FCC will accept applications from all eligible organizations and will initially select 20 pilot participants for each program.
Generally, government agencies use pilot programs to test the effectiveness of new ideas for improving a program before implementing them on a broad scale. The FCC has also continued and made permanent pilot programs in the past–the Rural Health Care program began as a pilot program. So while the number of participants will be small, the FCC may find some of the ideas tested in the pilot should be adopted and expanded beyond the pilot–and this helps everyone.
Your Home Your Internet Pilot Program
Although individuals in households receiving federal public housing assistance automatically qualify for ACP, many may be unaware they qualify for ACP or they may face unique barriers to applying. The ‘Your Home Your Internet’ pilot program aims to fix that by supporting pilot sites in increasing awareness and facilitating enrollment in ACP among households receiving federal public housing assistance. This pilot program will provide selected pilot sites with limited access to the National Verifier to assist individuals applying for ACP–an enhancement that may ease the enrollment process for applicants by helping navigators identify and resolve application issues quickly.
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
ACP Navigator Pilot Program
The ACP Navigator Pilot aims to increase awareness and facilitate enrollment in ACP among all eligible households. This pilot will allow limited access to the National Verifier to trusted, neutral third party entities such as individual schools, school districts, or other local, state, and government entities. Nonprofit organizations are not eligible to apply directly to this pilot, but they can participate in this pilot in partnership with a government entity, provided the government entity states the partnership in the application. Nonprofit organizations will not be granted access to the National Verifier in this pilot.
Examples of eligible entities for the ACP Navigator Pilot include:
- state and community libraries
- Tribal schools and libraries
- local institutions of higher learning
- state veterans affairs offices
Organizations should be prepared to discuss their role in the community it serves (i.e., its purpose and mission). Although the FCC will consider a variety of factors in an application, there are 3 key categories of prioritization for both pilot programs:
- The scope of the geographic area or the number of people in the target audience for ACP outreach. Organizations should explain how their outreach will help those most likely eligible for ACP.
- The incorporation of effective tracking and performance measurements. Tracking data on the effectiveness of interventions tested in the pilots give the FCC valuable information for program design. Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate they are capable of tracking the outcomes of their participation in the pilot.
- The applicant’s intention to encourage participation in ACP among individuals in areas with low program participation. Organizations should put forward a proposal that explains strategies to engage people in areas where ACP participation is low, although there is no specific percentage threshold established in the public notice.
These are general prioritization factors, but the specific application requirements are distinct for each pilot program. For example, applicants to the Your Home Your Internet pilot may target certain federally assisted housing properties within a geographic area, so they’ll need to state that in their application.
Applicants are not required to request funding in order to participate in either or both of the pilots, and are not automatically granted funding for participating in the pilot. Organizations that think they’ll need funding to conduct pilot program activities must submit a separate short-form grant funding application.
Pilot participants can still apply for outreach grant funding unrelated to the pilot, so participation in the pilot doesn’t mean you can’t apply for other ACP outreach grants when the non-pilot ACP Notice of Funding Opportunity is available.
Getting Ready Before the Application Window Opens
Before the application window opens, the FCC will share more information about the application window period and share the link to the application system.
If your organization intends to apply to one or both pilots, consider the following:
- Partnerships. Consider the partnerships that will help you accomplish the goals of the pilot program. Partnerships must be identified in applications for both pilots.
- Funding. Remember, you are not required to request funding, and receiving funding doesn’t preclude you from seeking funding in outreach grants unrelated to the pilots. But if your participation in the pilot is contingent upon getting funding, you’ll need to say this in the application.
- Pilot participation. If eligible, your organization can participate in one or both pilots. Consider which arrangement allows you to serve your community best.
For pilot programs, we expect to hear two more announcements: 1) An announcement from the FCC before the application window opens, explaining when the application window will open and a link to the application system 2) An announcement of the application window opening and the Notice of Funding Opportunity specific to Pilot programs.
We expect to see a separate Notice of Funding Opportunity for ACP outreach grants unrelated to the pilots (this is the fund of where the outreach grants will be disbursed).