The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can connect millions of unconnected households. The $1.2 trillion bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) included $14.2 billion for the ACP, a federal broadband benefit that provides eligible households $30/month discounts on their monthly internet bill.
The program provides eligible households with $30 per month (or $75 on Tribal lands) toward high-speed broadband service. Unfortunately, only 31% of those eligible have enrolled. The small city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, has now emerged as a best practice example of driving ACP enrollment with an effective awareness campaign.
Overcoming Awareness Barriers
51.6 million U.S. households are eligible for the ACP, including 17.7 million currently unconnected, yet complex awareness, trust, and enrollment barriers keep under-resourced households offline. These barriers, lack of awareness particularly, can be overcome with action from local leaders.
In Central Falls, Rhode Island, Mayor Maria Rivera and her team are leading the way and tackling these barriers head on to bring high-speed home connectivity to households that lack home internet.
“This pandemic has been financially devastating to so many of our families and residents, and we want to do all we can to ensure no family is left unconnected to the internet because of the cost burden,” said Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera at the time of the launch. “From our students who need Wi-Fi at home for school work to our many residents who need the internet to stay in touch with family members around the world, we’re ready to help more Central Falls households enroll in this great program.”
Since the launch of its awareness campaign in October 2022, Central Falls increased its Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) adoption rate by over six times the national rate and is now the leading city in Rhode Island for ACP adoption.
Work began in late June, with a soft launch August 26-September 4, and the public launch of the Central Falls Connect campaign on October 7, 2022. ACP adoption grew an impressive 21.5% from 44.8% on June 30 to 66.3% on December 31, 2022 (the latest available data).
Action To Accelerate Adoption
To launch the campaign, city leaders partnered with EducationSuperHighway, leveraging our Affordable Connectivity Program Adoption Toolkit for Local Leaders, which outlines practical steps city leaders can take and equips them with the tools to do so.
The Central Falls team used a wide range of the toolkit’s free marketing and communications templates designed to quickly spread awareness. Namely, they employed email templates to invite community partners and ISPs to the table; website copy explaining the program and how to apply; media advisory copy; mailers; event signage; and awareness postcards and flyers in four languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Creole. Language inclusion was a particularly critical component to the success of the campaign in Central Falls, where more than two-thirds of city residents are Latinx.
Zip code-level ACP adoption data from EducationSuperHighway’s ACP Enrollment Dashboard combined with their own intimate knowledge of the city also helped leaders focus their efforts in areas where ACP eligibility was highest and internet connectivity lowest, maximizing strategic impact.
City leaders also found creative ways to widen their reach, partnering with an existing back-to-school event where a local non-profit gave out free backpacks. The city was able to include flyers with the giveaways.
Awareness efforts were amplified with direct ACP enrollment assistance led by the city’s Office of Constituent Services and Health, the Central Falls Housing Authority, and the Central Falls School District.
“Mayor Rivera and the entire Central Falls team are showing the impact awareness campaigns can have in reaching ACP-eligible households and those who lack home internet,” said Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “We applaud their commitment to closing the digital divide in their community and congratulate them on the success of their campaign.”
A Replicable Model
We encourage all local leaders to make closing the broadband affordability gap in their communities a priority. Central Falls’ success in increasing awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program proves cities across the nation can move the needle on closing the digital divide.
Ready to follow in Central Falls’ footsteps? Download the Affordable Connectivity Program Adoption Toolkit for Local Leaders to get started.