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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Affordable Connectivity Program connects students to internet

The ACP can provide discounted internet for students who meet financial requirements at the University.
The+program+was+started+in+July+2021%2C+as+part+of+the+federal+infrastructure+law.
Image by Ava Weinreis
The program was started in July 2021, as part of the federal infrastructure law.

As students return to classes at the University of Minnesota, a federal program is aiming to bring internet access to more people across the state. 

At the University, a large portion of schoolwork is completed via Canvas, which can only be accessed through the use of the internet. Although students living on campus have access to the University’s free “eduroam” network, many students living in off-campus housing lack internet access and plans can quickly become expensive. 

The government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal internet accessibility program designed to provide discounted internet for people who may be struggling to find affordable, accessible internet. The ACP was established in July 2021 as part of the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act and includes several ways for applicants to be eligible, including receiving Medicaid benefits and having an income lower than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.

Currently, the ACP is being promoted by Hennepin County alongside other local government and community partners such as the City of Minneapolis, according to Ashley Schweitzer, program manager and strategist for the Hennepin County Office of Broadband and Digital Inclusion.

“We have information in all Hennepin County libraries about this benefit,” Schweitzer said. “We’ve also contracted with community-based organizations that we are working with traditional navigation services and asked them to promote the benefit.”

In addition to lower-cost internet, the ACP also offers discounted computers, access to public computers and temporary access to free WiFi hotspots.

Several internet providers are involved in the ACP as well, one being U.S. Internet (USI), a local internet and software provider that has serviced Minneapolis, Minnetonka and St. Louis Park since 1995.

Currently, the ACP brings down the internet cost by the amount of credit a customer applies for on their monthly bill. The credit amount is currently $35 per month and the company is offering discounts for its customers who need it most, according to USI Director of Operations Sam Turner.

The ACP benefits students returning to school, including students returning to the University for their fall semester who may be struggling with off-campus internet costs.

“If a student is struggling to afford their cellular data plan, or they happen to have their own broadband subscription if they’re not in a dorm, and they qualify for the program, that would be a great benefit,” Schweitzer said.

One way students can benefit from the ACP is through a Pell Grant Award, a financial aid package that grants students more than $6,000. 

According to the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, 16% to 19% of students lack access to internet-related assets. Baraka Aswan, a second-year student living off-campus, said they have considered the ACP program to lower their utility bill. 

“Wi-Fi access is a big thing, especially today since a lot of our work is on Canvas,” Aswan said. “The ACP is definitely a good program, being a U of M student. It could benefit anyone in college.”

Aswan lives with friends in a house in the Como neighborhood and said during the first week of school at the University, his house did not have access to any Wi-Fi, making the first few days back to school difficult for the group.

Aswan added more affordable internet leaves more room for other expenses such as groceries and rent. 

“If a potential customer or existing customer meets the financial requirements of the program, then they apply for that credit through the ACP,” Turner said. “We essentially half-priced the internet for most of our customers.”

More information about the Affordable Connectivity Program is available at the Hennepin County Broadband and Digital Inclusion website.

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