NCDIT rolls out internet affordability plan | Avery

AVERY COUNTY — The N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband and Digital Equity Division wants to make residents aware of the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which could assist them with affordability.

“Two years into the pandemic, we know how crucial high-speed, affordable internet access at home is to work, learn, socialize and get medical care. But many North Carolina residents may not be able to afford it,” said DIT Enterprise Planning Analyst Sherrie Campbell.

The Division of Broadband and Digital Equity was created within the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) in 2021 to elevate Gov. Cooper’s priority to close the digital divide in North Carolina. The Broadband Infrastructure Office (established in 2015) partners with the new Office of Digital Equity and Literacy, established in 2021 as the first office of its kind in the nation to serve as a statewide resource for broadband access and digital inclusion and digital literacy initiatives that the state leads.

According to the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband and Digital Equity Division’s website, the program states that “The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides households a discount of $30 a month for their internet bill or $75 a month for broadband service on tribal lands. Households may also receive $100 to buy a laptop, desktop or tablet through their internet provider (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50).”

All residents who were participating in the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program remain enrolled in the new program and continued to receive the $50 monthly benefit until March 1, 2022. After that date, they will transition to the lower monthly benefit of $30 that the ACP provides.

A household qualifies if a member meets one of the criteria, including:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), WIC or Lifeline
  • Participates in Tribal-specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • 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
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year, or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program.

Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier noted that the program “helps people that cannot afford internet, if they apply and qualify for the program.” Currently the program is presented by the Department of Social Services and information is also readily available at the Avery County Senior Center.

Interested individuals can learn more about the program on the FCC website by clicking to https://acpbenefit.org. NCDIT notes that this resource will help to create digital equity for North Carolinians.

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