Imagine you are an older adult living in a low-income apartment complex in the heart of Minneapolis. You need help paying your monthly internet bill and learn about a low-cost internet discount program. It sounds great, but you need to fill out an online application and email documents to verify your income. Also, all communication on the program (like application status, follow up questions and acceptance) is shared via email. After that, you need to call your internet service provider to use the discount.This is time-consuming and frustrating for anyone to navigate, but now imagine you have never used email before. In fact, you don’t know how to use a web browser or a computer mouse. You also don’t speak English. This is the reality for many of our Lyndale neighbors who want to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal discount that helps lower-income households afford internet service. Based on income level, 58% of Lyndale residents would qualify for ACP. Over the last several months, the Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) has been providing 1:1 assistance to bring accessible internet to our neighbors living in Charles Horn Towers Public Housing.
What is ACP
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government funded program designed to provide accessible internet access and devices to folks with lower incomes. The program allows for a monthly discount of $30 to be used for internet connection and a one-time discount of $100 to be applied towards a laptop or tablet device per household.
To utilize ACP, individuals must first complete an application with verification that they qualify for the program. A household qualifies for the program by income, participation in other federal benefits programs (like Medicaid, WIC or SNAP), meeting the qualifications for an internet provider’s low-cost internet plan, or are already enrolled in the Lifeline program.
After an applicant is approved, they must reach out to an ACP-accepting internet provider to apply the discount.
LNA’s outreach efforts
LNA’s team of Grayson Betz and Karsten Potts have been working directly with residents at Horn Towers to educate them about the program and to help them through the lengthy application process. As of November 2023, Grayson and Karsten have provided information about the ACP to 154 residents.
LNA has been teaching English and basic computer skills classes at Horn Towers since summer 2022. Through these classes, LNA saw that our neighbors had a real need for low-cost internet and assistance applying for this program—especially because the ACP application process is completely managed online. Many Horn Towers residents do not know how to use a computer, how to access their email account or how to send a photo of their verification documents. Additionally for many, their primary language is not English. For them, the process is truly formidable. LNA is thrilled to expand our outreach efforts to meet this need in our community. Since August 2023, Grayson and Karsten have been hosting information sessions in which they work 1:1 with neighbors to establish email access, complete the lengthy application, compile verification documents and follow up on submitted applications. After an ACP application has been approved, Grayson and Karsten help residents contact their internet service providers to get the discount applied to their account. It takes several hours of 1:1 assistance to help each resident from start to finish. So far, 67 residents have been approved for the ACP with our help with another 24 residents midway through the process.
For many neighbors in our community, ACP is an exciting opportunity to make internet access affordable. Through in-person information sessions, LNA’s team has helped 91 Horn Towers residents navigate the hurdles to low-cost internet access, in addition to the free computer and English classes that LNA teaches at the apartment buildings. Through this work, LNA brings our vision to life: engaging our diverse community members to build a safe, vibrant, and sustainable neighborhood.
How to participate
If you would benefit from reduced rate internet, visit the city of Minneapolis website to learn how to qualify and apply.