The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is spreading the word about a federal program increasing internet access for low-income households.
Through its various Catholic Human Services (CHS) agencies, the archdiocese is encouraging clients to sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers discounts of up to $30 per month (or up to $75 per month for those on qualifying tribal lands) toward broadband service.
In addition, participants can receive a one-time discount of $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop or tablet from participating providers if they pay between $10 and $50 toward the price.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the $14.2 billion initiative at the end of 2021 as a permanent successor to the Emergency Broadband Benefit program created in response to the COVID pandemic.
According to federal data, some $2.5M had been awarded through the program to residents of the five-county area as of August. The majority of those ACP beneficiaries live in Philadelphia County.
Within the archdiocese, efforts to raise awareness of the program are being spearheaded by Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre, who serves on the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications while overseeing CHS.
CHS secretary James Amato said the ACP is a “significant resource” for the “high number of low-income and working class families with children” served by the archdiocese.
The COVID pandemic laid bare a national “digital divide,” as impoverished households struggled to adapt to remote work and education with limited or nonexistent internet access.
At one CHS agency alone – Catholic Community Services – there are “some 500 kids served, with almost all from low-income families,” said Amato.
Seniors aided by the archdiocese’s Catholic Housing and Community Services agency should also look to enroll in ACP, he added.
“They need internet connectivity to stay current with Social Security accounts, and broaden their connections with their families and the various senior community agencies that serve them,” said Amato.
For young and old alike, he added, the program has “great potential” to improve the quality of life.
For more information and to enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program, visit fcc.gov/acp, contact one of Catholic Social Services’ Family Service Centers, or call the CSS Helpline at 267-331-2490.
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