By L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis
Despite being one of the top tech hubs in the nation, Los Angeles is home to a deep-rooted digital divide that has effectively cut off hundreds of thousands of Latinos from the tools and resources they need to improve their lives. Central to this divide is the high cost of home internet. Although more than 60% of L.A. households have access to broadband internet, communities such as East Los Angeles, El Monte and South El Monte have substantially lower rates than that of the rest of the county or California.
At a time when working-class Latino families are only just beginning to recover from the economic effects of the pandemic, they must now contend with soaring household expenses due to the highest inflation in 40 years. As a result, these families are forced to prioritize necessities such as food and housing, leaving very little of their income for other bills. For these households, access to low-cost internet is not a luxury but a critical commodity. Quality broadband at home means access to classes and other education tools, employment opportunities, telehealth services, financial resources, support networks and so much more.
This growing gap in digital access is evident throughout District 1, where nearly 95,626 households have no internet at all. And while other families currently have some form of service, rising household costs coupled with stagnant wages are making it increasingly difficult to keep up with the high cost of monthly internet bills.
Addressing digital equity is one of my highest priorities. That’s why my fellow Supervisors and I are working to ensure all eligible households enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Through this federally funded initiative, qualifying families can save as much as $30 a month on high-speed home internet. Even better: this discount can be used with other existing low-cost internet programs so that your monthly internet bill may end up costing nothing. Those who qualify can also take advantage of a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a computer or tablet from participating providers.
The ACP was launched this year by the Federal Communications Commission to replace the 2021 Emergency Broadband Benefit program that ended in December. Unlike its predecessor, ACP was designed as a more permanent program, so this benefit is expected to help households for four years or more.
Applying to the ACP has been made as easy as possible, with enrollment assistance in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. In addition, the program makes sure that households where at least one member is enrolled in programs like Medi-Cal, CalFresh or Lifeline are automatically eligible. ACP also makes the benefit available to people who receive WIC benefits or have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Current Pell Grant recipients and students who receive free and discounted school lunch will also be eligible.
If Los Angeles County is to achieve true digital equity, all of us must act. The ACP is too valuable an opportunity to waste. If you or someone you know — a relative, neighbor, or friend — is struggling with the high cost of home internet, I encourage you to call 866-420-2102 or visit http://internetforallnow.org/applytoday to get more information and start the application process.