By: Lauren Mendoza, Assistant Assistant Secretary for State and Local Outreach, Office of Communications and Outreach
Recently, officials from the Department of Education (ED) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) traveled to Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina, for conversations about partnerships between schools and community organizations to to implement the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). ACP, which was created in the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, offers eligible households rebates of up to $30 per month on internet service and a one-time rebate of $100 for a connected device. These conversations, which followed the Road to Success Back to School Bus Tour stop in Greensboro, North Carolina, highlighted the impact of CPA and community efforts to remove barriers to accessibility and broadband adoption, allowing more students and families to benefit from transformative learning opportunities. thanks to technology.
Following tours of four Charlotte schools Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten joined the Center for Digital Equity (CDE) and their Digital Navigators on Tuesday to engage families on CPA, followed by a panel discussion at Southside Homes with representatives from ED, FCC, CDE , Inlivian, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte (LHCC), and Save Our Children, as well as parents and residents. Roundtable participants highlighted the importance of involving community members in the development of implementation plans to ensure that strategies meet the most pressing needs. For example, participants pointed out that while efforts can be made to streamline enrollment in programs like ACP, leveraging trusted community messengers is critical to deploying strategies that meet households there. where they are to overcome barriers to adoption. These may include using multilingual communications to raise awareness, address apprehensions and lack of familiarity with technology, and others. common personal problems.
Summing up the conversation, Bruce Clark, Executive Director of the CDE, said, “One of the biggest takeaways from Undersecretary Marten’s visit to Charlotte was how [ED] helps schools and communities think about the impact of digital equity at school and at home. Solving both is key to ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to learn and explore wherever they are.
On Wednesday, Digital Durham hosted a roundtable at the Kramden Institute with representatives from its member organizations, city leaders, ED and FCC. Laura Fogle, Founder of Digital Durham, explained: “Durham is a hub of tech innovation with a large research university and a growing number of tech companies, but many residents still lack access to basic tech resources. that they need. Through its members and partners, Digital Durham helps eligible households sign up for internet discounts; distributes computers and lends wireless access points; and trains children, parents and grandparents to use technology to perform essential tasks. Together, we connect families to the technology resources they need to learn and thrive in our modern digital world.
Similar to the previous day’s roundtable, attendees referenced continuing barriers to ensuring families have reliable high-speed internet access, especially in a city where census blocks a few miles away have high adoption rates. radically different. This includes “technology-centric” issues such as people running out of mobile hotspot data and limited stocks of loaner equipment, but also “people-centric” issues such as lack of digital culture. The ACP and its associated FCC local grants will help address these issues, however, they urged streamlining registration and certification of eligibility to make it as easy as possible for households to participate and highlighted the need for sustainable funding.
The roundtable was followed by tours of Kramden, including its aircraft refurbishment facilities; Club Boulevard Elementary School, where Digital Durham and Durham Public Schools announced a partnership to promote ACP to families in the district; and Durham County Library, which helps bridge the digital divide and promote digital literacy through its digital browsers, as well as its mobile technology and device and access point loan program.
As part of the President’s GetInternet initiative, many internet service providers are offering fully CPA-covered broadband plans, meaning millions of families can now access high-speed internet without paying a dime. As of September 2022, over 13.5 million households have taken advantage of CPA, however, an estimated 48 million households are eligible. GetInternet.gov is a one-stop-shop to check eligibility and register. Additionally, the White House issued a ACP Back-to-School Toolkit with a ready-to-use backpack flyer that schools and community partners can use to help students and their families enroll.
For more recommendations on equitable broadband adoption, read the new resource, Advancing digital equity for all.