For so many in the LGBTQ+ community, connection to the digital world is a crucial support link. Whether it’s making connections with fellow queer people or accessing opportunities for inclusive telehealth services like PrEP and gender-affirming care, connectivity can help us support each other in new and exciting ways.
Through LGBT Tech’s PowerOn Program, we’ve focused on getting technology into the hands of LGBTQ+ people who need it. PowerOn has distributed over $230,000 worth of technology working with almost 80 partner organizations across 33 states. These devices are being used to enable drop-in services, facilitate support groups, equip computer labs, and connect emergency support services.
In addition to access to connected devices, we must make sure that everyone can afford an internet connection and use it to its full potential. In fact, a recent study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that roughly 1 in 5 of the 24 million unconnected American households listed cost as the reason why they are not online. When you combine these findings with the fact that LGBTQ+ workers make only $0.90 for every $1.00 made by the average worker – and even less for trans people and queer people of color – internet affordability is a clear barrier to access for our community.
Fortunately, private providers have joined hands with the Federal Communications Commission to roll out a groundbreaking new program. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides eligible households with $30 (or up to $75 on Tribal lands) per month to reduce the cost of internet service. Over 13 million households have signed up for ACP benefits so far. And when combined with new low-cost offerings from leading providers, many have been connected at no-cost.
The ACP is working well, and the $14 billion Congress initially allocated for the program is running out. Experts estimate ACP funds could run out by the middle of 2024 – leaving millions of households, including many LGBTQ+ Americans, with the choice of paying out-of-pocket to continue their service or losing home internet access all together.
Congress can’t let that happen. The demand for ACP benefits in just the first year of the program is a stark example of why we need a long-term sustainable funding solution for ACP. The tens of billions of dollars Congress has allocated for expanding broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas will matter only if Americans can afford to purchase those new connections.
American taxpayers are supporting investments in growing our broadband networks because they know the opportunities it will unlock for so many – for new remote learning options, access to telehealth, increased economic growth and opportunity, and so much more.
By making a long-term investment in the ACP, Congress can make sure that the benefits of those investments are realized across America. Let’s get it done.