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Program bridging digital divide for low income Utahns

Alex Gonzalez

(Utah News Connection) Salt Lake County and its partners are trying to spread the word and promote enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program. ACP's primary goal is to get lower-income households either a discount on internet access or free service.

Collyn Mosquito, Promise Economic Wellbeing coordinator for Millcreek Promise, has conducted outreach events around Millcreek to spread the word. The next outreach event is from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Thursday at the Holladay Hills Living Community.

Mosquito said a number of barriers inhibit those who need it most from signing up.

"So there is a language barrier, and there's also a mobility barrier, issues with transportation, the ability to understand how to sign up for internet," he said, "especially for something as complex as ACP."

The Affordable Connectivity Program was expanded through the federal infrastructure bill and now offers a $30 monthly benefit toward high-speed, in-home broadband service, and a $100 benefit for devices. The monthly broadband benefit is $75 for Native Americans on Tribal lands. Only about 17 percent of eligible Utahns have enrolled so far.

Earlier this year, Salt Lake County and its partners received nearly $170,000 to conduct outreach and promote enrollment. Mosquito said that in the process of assisting communities, he knows that people struggle paying their internet bill or were "upsold" on an internet plan. He said those who have signed up for the ACP are grateful for the cost savings. According to Millcreek Promise, one in 10 households doesn't have an internet subscription and relies on a cellular data plan.

"It is definitely more than just saving money, it's definitely giving you the chance to access the digital resources that are out there," he said. "Some of these families have young children still in school, and so they'll be able to use their Chromebooks at home."

Mosquito called the ACP an important "stepping stone" on a path to digital equity - but it will only be effective if more is done to improve public awareness of the program.