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By Natalie Roper

With an unprecedented amount of federal dollars becoming available for broadband, rural coal communities have new and expanded opportunities to tap into funding programs designed to increase access to this critical infrastructure for equitable economic development.

The Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is one such opportunity, helping families access broadband via a monthly subsidy for their internet bills. While 12 million households already participate in the ACP, millions more eligible families have yet to sign up. Fortunately, new programming was developed to close the gap. 

A green and blue graphic with a bullhorn proclaiming the availability of a federal funding opportunityThis ACP Outreach Grant Program will provide funding to community organizations to help make sure more people know about and take advantage of the subsidy. This program provides a critical opportunity for the Just Transition Fund’s partners and allies, including groups not already working in the digital equity space, to build on the local relationships and trust they’ve developed to spread the word about this program. 

Our partners at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society have compiled some important resources to explain this new grant opportunity that we encourage you to check out. But here’s a quick summary:

What is the opportunity? The ACP Outreach Grant Program, including the National Competitive Outreach Program and the Tribal Community Outreach Program, funds outreach activities to increase awareness of and participation in the ACP. 

How much funding is available? Upwards of 400 grants will be awarded, ranging from $50,000 to $1 million per grant. 

What is the match requirement? There is no match requirement!

What kind of work is funded? This program supports organizations to conduct community outreach and provide individual sign-up assistance to increase enrollment in the ACP. You can get the whole run down on the Benton Institute’s website, but eligible grant activities include digital outreach, direct mail, in-person outreach, and staff capacity, among other things. 

Why is this important? In the places where we work, an average of just 37 percent of eligible households are signed up for the ACP. Increasing participation in this program will directly expand the reach of broadband—a key building block for new economic opportunity in rural and coal-impacted places. 

What’s the deadline? Applications are due by 11:59 PM EST on January 9, 2023.

How can the JTF help? We provide grants up to $25,000 and technical assistance to help community organizations access federal funding opportunities like the ACP Grant Program. Fill out our Federal Access Center interest form to connect with us and learn more!

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