In September 2023, EducationSuperHighway convened twelve FCC ACP outreach grantees from across the country to participate in an ACP Learning Cohort. One cohort member, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC), has been advancing ACP advocacy work in southwest Ohio and the tri-state area. As UWGC integrated digital inclusion into its financial empowerment work, they understood how essential the ACP was for the communities they serve. We spoke with UWGC’s Public Policy and Advocacy Associate, Nina Neto, who told us about their work and how they also sprang into action as it became clear that ACP renewal funding was in jeopardy.
Q: Could you tell us more about your organization and its work?
Yes, absolutely! The United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s goal is to improve the quality of life for all residents in our region through three main areas of focus: early childhood education, housing stability, and financial empowerment. We serve nine counties across the tri-state area of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Q: How does your organization prioritize digital inclusion?
Digital inclusion is our major focus within our financial empowerment pillar. By 2025, we aim to increase digital access by 5 percent, with a particular focus on families with low incomes. One of the main ways we work to connect communities is through the Affordable Connectivity Program. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati received an FCC Outreach grant, which has allowed our team to bring awareness of the ACP to the regions we serve.
We also work in partnership with the state’s broadband office, Broadband Ohio. They named the United Way of Greater Cincinnati as the backbone organization for the Southwest Ohio Regional Digital Inclusion Alliance. This community-centric group spent the spring and summer talking to residents in a 16-county region to inform Ohio’s Digital Opportunity plan and increase digital equity and opportunity in our region.
We went to libraries, community fairs, reentry events, and other places where the covered populations already were, and we asked them about their lived experiences. A lot of what came up in those conversations was around the concept of affordability and the cost of home internet.
Q: Could you explain how your organization has incorporated the ACP into your pre-existing work?
Sure! Our Community Connections team is using a few different tactics to get the word out about the ACP. First, we are opening our doors and hosting enrollment events. Our care staff are trained to provide support through the application process and troubleshoot when needed. We also host pop-up events and partner with existing events across our regions of service. We are also working to create a toolkit for partner organizations with flyers and email templates to support enrollment efforts.
Q: Can you tell us how the United Way of Greater Cincinnati is advocating for ACP renewal?
Of course! The funding for the ACP is running out very quickly, yet outreach efforts are continuing. So that math doesn’t add up, right? What will happen when our residents are hit with an unaffordable and unexpected bill after being promised to be relieved from it just a few months earlier? We realized that advocacy would be a critical piece of the puzzle.
Right now, we are working on coordinating letters from organizations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana to Congress urging for the continued funding of the ACP through, at least, the end of next year. In addition, we created the ACP Working Group within the Connecting Southwest Ohio Regional Digital Inclusion Coalition. We are working to ensure that elected officials hear directly from folks who are benefiting from the ACP on what the ACP means to them and also what it would mean if the benefit was taken away.
Q: Do you have any advice for organizations that want to join the effort to renew the ACP?
I would say the more, the merrier! Especially if your organization is in a position to create a letter to send to Congressional leaders! Both USAC and EducationSuperHighway have ACP enrollment data that shows the number of ACP-eligible households in your community and the number that have yet to sign up for the benefit. This can be an impactful number to add to your letter because it represents the constituents that could be affected if the benefit were to end. The letter is also a great opportunity to outline how important the ACP is to your community, city, and/or state.
Looking for advocacy resources?
Check out the Advocacy section of our PromoteACP: Resource Hub.