- Roughly 22% of low-income households with children do not have home internet access, according to a recent report by Connected Nation, a nonprofit that advocates for universal broadband access.
- There are resources available to help low-income families access home internet, including the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal broadband benefit program funded by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Even so, only 64% of low-income survey respondents are aware of the program while 33% are enrolled, according to Connected Nation.
- Moving forward, Connected Nation recommends promoting digital programs to potential enrollees through varying forms of outreach, suggesting services through trusted local institutions, and highlighting the benefits of home internet access.
The Connected Nation’s study backs up previous findings that there may be signs of lagging enrollment rates in the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program.
The federal program provides financial assistance up to $30 per month for internet service to low-income families and $75 per month for eligible households on qualifying tribal lands. Additionally, eligible households can benefit from up to $100 in discounts when making a one-time purchase of a desktop computer or tablet from participating providers.
In October 2022, a report by nonprofit EducationSuperHighway found only a quarter of the 51.6 million eligible households had enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program. That report also found that among those who tried to enroll at the time, 45% saw their applications rejected, and even more households struggled to complete the 30- to 45-minute enrollment process.
Concerns around the ongoing digital divide often intersect with the homework gap, or students’ ability to access classwork outside of school hours. A majority of schools and libraries have previously expressed support for expanding the federal E-rate program to fund internet access beyond their campuses as the “most practical solution” to this issue.
The top two reasons Connected Nation survey respondents from low-income families said they have not signed up for home internet services is because they have broadband access elsewhere, like at work or school (33%), and their smartphone allows them to do everything they need online (32%). The third most cited reason was because it’s too expensive (9%).
Connected Nation also noted that focus group participants expressed distrust in internet service providers or the federal government. Because of this, the report stressed the need to tap into community resources — such as places of worship, libraries or community centers — to introduce eligible households to the Affordable Connectivity Program.
For the report, Connected Nation interviewed 1,758 people, of which 453 survey respondents were identified as living in low-income households.