AUGUSTA — The Maine Connectivity Authority announced a statewide initiative called ACP4ME to increase awareness of and enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program to help lower-income households pay for high-speed internet.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is a $14.2 billion federal broadband benefit funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that provides eligible households with a discount of up to $30 per month (up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands) and a one-time $100 discount toward a laptop, desktop computer or tablet through a participating provider.
In Maine, 238,710 households are eligible for the ACP, yet only about 76,718 (32 percent of those eligible) have enrolled. Funding for the ACP is limited, so to receive the most benefit and signal the importance of the program, the Maine Connectivity Authority urges Mainers to enroll today.
“The Affordable Connectivity Program can help Maine families save money on the internet connection they need to work, study, see a doctor, and keep in touch with friends and family. This powerful resource will help our state reach my goal of ensuring anyone in our state who wants to connect to the internet will be able to do so by the end of 2024,” said Gov. Janet Mills.
MCA is working with EducationSuperHighway, a national non-profit working to close the broadband affordability gap, and has launched a pre-enrollment tool and ACP4ME resources to help Maine households prepare and succeed with enrollment: GetACP.org/Maine.
This virtual mobile assistant simplifies the enrollment process by providing real-time support to help eligible households determine the easiest way to qualify. The mobile website is available in four languages and helps applicants overcome critical barriers in the enrollment process by identifying the documents needed to apply and find “free with ACP” broadband plans available in their area.
“Working with our partners EducationSuperHighway, the Maine Connectivity Authority is building a coalition of local stakeholders and trusted institutions to overcome awareness and enrollment barriers that prevent households in Maine from enrolling,” said Andrew Butcher, president of the Maine Connectivity Authority.
A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria:
- Has an income that is at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines – a family of four making less than $60,000 is eligible;
- Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC or Lifeline;
- Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision (CEP);
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income program; or
- Participates in one of several Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income qualifying standard), Tribal TANF or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
Combined with commitments by internet service providers to deliver high-speed internet plans for up to $30 per month, eligible households can receive high-speed internet at no cost by pairing their ACP benefit with one of these “free with ACP” broadband plans.
“Closing the digital divide starts with ensuring every eligible American household knows about the Affordable Connectivity Program, can easily enroll, and then sign up for high-speed internet service,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “We applaud the Maine Connectivity Authority’s leadership for raising awareness of this critical program in the state’s most unconnected communities.”
Through support from the Maine Connectivity Authority, Maine also has a network of Regional & Tribal Broadband Partners equipped to help people enroll in the ACP. Additionally, four organizations in Maine received Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program grants through the Federal Communications Commission:
- The Aroostook County Action Corporation
- Four Directions Development Corporation
- The National Digital Equity Center
- The Sunrise County Economic Council.
Resources are also available for organizations that want to assist households with signing up for the program. A free online training course and more ACP4ME resources are available on MCA’s website at: maineconnectivity.org/affordability.
The Maine Connectivity Authority was created in 2021 to expand access to fast, reliable and affordable internet to the people and places who need it and to break down the barriers that keep Mainers from taking full advantage of those connections. To learn more about the Maine Connectivity Authority, please visit their website at maineconnectivity.org
EducationSuperHighway is a national nonprofit with the mission to close the digital divide for the 18 million households that have access to the Internet but can’t afford to connect. It focuses on America’s most unconnected communities, where more than 25 percent of people don’t have internet.