Complex Application Prompts Two-thirds of ACP Applicants to Quit: Experts

Eligible Americans are not getting through the entire ACP application process, event hears.

Complex Application Prompts Two-thirds of ACP Applicants to Quit: Experts
Photo of Stacey Baxter, program manager at advocacy group Next Century Cities, taken from her website.

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2023 – Two-thirds of potential applicants for the Affordable Connectivity Program drop out before submission due to bureaucratic hurdles, said Stacey Baxter, program manager at advocacy group Next Century Cities.

During a webinar on Tuesday, Baxter pointed to the multi-step application process as a huge barrier for enrollment in the ACP program, which offers discounts for low-income families to obtain internet connectivity.

In order to sign up for ACP, applicants have to submit multiple documents verifying their identity and eligibility. This process may take up to 30 or 45 minutes, but applicants are usually on a time crunch or have limited access to the internet or limited digital skills, which is often the case for families seeking ACP subsidy, said Baxter.

Once they have submitted the applications, chances are there will be name mismatch because applicants don’t always have access to all required documents. In that case, they would have to start the whole process over again, she added, saying this is one reason why only one out of four eligible households are enrolled in the program.

In June, the Joe Biden administration announced ACP has been serving more than 18 million Americans out of an estimated 48.6 million eligible households. It also launched a campaign in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission to help the remaining families sign up. The agency said it continued to seek ways to streamline the application process and improve the program’s customer experience.

“We have limited time as individuals, especially as families, working parents,” Baxter explained. “Spending this much time on application might not be something that they are able to do.”

One way to address this issue is through community outreach, where local digital officials or navigators can motivate and assist households throughout the application process, said Herminia Ramirez, chief-regional community coordinator for the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities in San Diego County, California.

For families to successfully see the discounts on their bills, “it often takes someone who knows the program, who can hold their hand and carry them through the process,” she remarked.

In addition to updates on the program, panelists also echoed other industry experts to urge Congress to replenish ACP’s funding before it runs out in early 2024.

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