ACP Now Serving Over 18M Americans, Hundreds Apply for Wireless Innovation Fund, Friedman Invests in Telecom

The ACP program has added more than a million Americans since April.

ACP Now Serving Over 18M Americans, Hundreds Apply for Wireless Innovation Fund, Friedman Invests in Telecom
Photo of vice president Kamala Harris in 2019 by Gage Skidmore

June 14, 2023 – The Joe Biden administration launched Wednesday the “Online for All” campaign to raise awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program, which now has 18.5 million Americans signed up for it.

The campaign, a joint effort by the Department of Education and the nonprofit Civic Nation, kicked off with a “Week of Action” to increase participation in the $14-billion ACP, which a monthly discount on internet connections of up-to $30 and $75 on tribal lands.

During the week, the federal government and more than 300 organizations, including major internet providers like Verizon and AT&T, will work together to promote the ACP program and help eligible families sign up.

The campaign also involves several federal and agency representatives in an “all of government” effort to spread the message. Vice President Kamala Harris released a video Wednesday encouraging Americans to sign up for the ACP program. Officials from the White House, the Federal Communications Commission and other departments are hitting the road with events across the country.

The FCC has been actively funding ACP outreach programs to get the remaining two-thirds of eligible Americans signed up. The FCC announced in April that it had onboarded 17 million Americans, meaning it added more than a million Americans since.

This latest endeavor is launched against a backdrop of concerns from experts and internet service providers regarding the long-term viability of the ACP as it is expected to run out of funds in the first half of 2024.

Wireless Innovation Fund sees more than 120 applicants

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Friday more than 120 entities applied for the $1.4 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund.

Funded through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the 10-year grant program supports the research and development of open, interoperable 5G radio access networks. These networks facilitate an open ecosystem compatible with multiple wireless equipment instead of a single system from one supplier, bringing down the supply costs.

According to the statement, applicants requested $146 million for R&D projects and $1.2 billion for testing and assessment. The NTIA will make available up to $140.5 million in funding for the first round of applications, which were due June 2.

“The overwhelming interest in this first round of funding shows the private sector is stepping up to meet that need,” said NTIA administrator Alan Davidson. “These are the important first steps in this critical project to help us drive competition, strengthen our supply chain, and provide our allies additional trusted, innovative choices.”

The NTIA will begin making announcements about individual grants in August.

Investment firm plows money into telecom infrastructure

Investment firm Friedman Capital announced Monday a $250-million investment in telecommunication infrastructure across the sunbelt and southeast region.

“We are excited to launch FCF Strategic Fund I and believe the current market dynamics present a generational opportunity to invest and consolidate physical telecommunications assets across underserved markets,” said the company’s chief investment officer Ben Friedman, in a statement.

The company is in the process of negotiations to bring between 10 and 20 smaller assets into a single provider, which will likely take between two and five years, said Friedman in an exchange with news site Fierce Telecom.

The fund targets several fiber and wireless internet service providers in the area, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

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