Evolving The Gap – Making Meaningful Changes Toward Positive Transformations

Evolving The Gap – Making Meaningful Changes Toward Positive Transformations

Posted on February 15, 2024 by Kiarra Louis, Initiative Support Coordinator with The Patterson Foundation
In May 2023, The Patterson Foundation launched The Gap to close the Affordable Connectivity Program's (ACP) eligibility and enrollment gap. ACP provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households.

Using a well-established group of trained ACP Engagers and leveraging digital navigation, TPF increased awareness of ACP through strategic outreach and encouraged internet adoption by enrolling eligible households. Phase two of The Gap was initiated when TPF trained five TPFers to become digital navigators to enroll eligible households in the program.

In January 2024, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced that ACP applications and enrollments would cease after February 7, 2024. Without additional funding from Congress, the allotted $14.2 billion to fund the ACP is projected to run out in April 2024. As a result, the FCC has begun taking steps to wind down the ACP.

To continue strengthening individuals in the Suncoast region, The Gap is pivoting from closing the gap between those ACP eligible and ACP enrolled to focusing on closing the digital access gaps between those connected to affordable internet, devices, and skill support.

Thousands in our region are not connected to one or more of the three essential elements (connectivity, devices, and digital literacy and skills training), as demonstrated in the table below.

Although these numbers demonstrate that thousands of households within the four-county region are connected, it does not account for the following three things:
  1. Connectivity is the ability to connect to affordable and reliable high-speed internet. Among those connected are households who are struggling to pay for their monthly internet connection in addition to their basic necessities. Often, the service they do pay for can be unreliable and interfere with their ability to work and learn remotely.

  2. Device sharing is common among households: Device sharing is also a challenge families experience. Many households have at least one device, yet it may be shared among multiple family members, limiting each member's ability to use the internet meaningfully.

  3. Having a smartphone is not enough: To engage meaningfully online, you need the right devices, such as a laptop, a desktop, or a tablet. Having a smartphone is not an adequate device. No matter how smart your phone is, it is not conducive to remote learning, remote working, or applying for social services.

The Patterson Foundation's Digital Access for All team is focused on addressing this gap through The Gap endeavor. The Gap's team of trained Engagers and Digital Navigators will continue to increase awareness of local digital access resources and help individuals and households explore their options.

Strengthening digital access among people of all ages and backgrounds — especially those from asset-limited families — helps ensure everyone is included in our journey toward these new realities and benefiting from the many advancements.

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