SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — In 2021, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connection Program to help American families access affordable broadband. Two years later, enrollment remains low across the country, including in South Dakota.
“The registration rate for South Dakota is 11 percent,” South Dakota Voices for Peace Executive Director Taneeza Islam told KELOLAND News Wednesday.
That’s why South Dakota Voices of Peace is using a grant through Citizen Nation to help enroll people in Sioux Falls in the Affordable Connection Program (ACP), which gives eligible families a $30 discount on monthly internet bills, a $75 discount on tribal land, and a one-time $100 per household. device discount.
“Here in Sioux Falls, a study was conducted in terms of access to internet devices and digital literacy. Overall, what we found is that there is a huge gap between low-income households and the rest of our community in terms of access to the Internet as well as devices,” Islam said.
It is no secret that access to the Internet is necessary for almost every aspect of modern daily life. But Islam pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities in communities when it comes to access.
“You know, we’ve heard stories of kids who have to continue their education online — because schools are closed — in a McDonald’s parking lot because they don’t have internet at home. Therefore, we are really trying to create equality,” said Islam.
By enrolling individuals, the South Dakota Voices for Peace program hopes to facilitate access to news, jobs, online learning modules and other information previously difficult for low-income families to access.
While more rural areas of South Dakota struggle to access broadband, Islam said the problem in Sioux Falls is affordability, not access. Outreach coordinator Saliya Ali said the nonprofit recently helped a woman enroll in the program after a workplace injury left her without access to the Internet, preventing her from working.
“He was really grateful because he wanted to go to CNA classes and he realized that a lot of these programs require computer literacy. And so he is excited to have internet access at home. So he can be computer literate and take these classes,” said Ali.
How can I register?
Program eligibility includes individuals or their dependents participating in assistance programs such as Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, or eligible for free or reduced lunch programs, or attending CPE schools. The goal is to enroll 100 eligible families in ACP within the next month, with a focus on multilingual residents.
To sign up, South Dakota Voices of Peace meets every Thursday from 4-8pm at the downtown Sioux Falls library and Sunday from 1-5, Friday from 12-4pm at Caminando Juntos- and will be on Kid Link. Terry Redlin and Laura B. Anderson will have additional hours on Tuesdays, 5-6 p.m., as well as on January 24th and January 31st at the Falls Community Health center clinic, as well as January 25th and February 8th at the Downtown Avera clinic.
The diversity of places and times is to accommodate many different types of work schedules.
“Yeah, that’s why we made it a point, a lot of people can work all week, especially since a lot of Smithfield employees only have Sundays off. So we found a way to make that day accessible to people. And then, like Fridays, we’re very intentional about making sure we choose different times to make sure we’re as accessible as we can be,” he said.
Although you can register directly through the ACP website, South Dakota Voices for Peace offers pop-up clinics to facilitate the process for individuals who need help with language and technology barriers.
“So they’re there to walk around with the community members to make sure everything is done right,” Islam said.
If you can’t make the pop-up clinics or office hours, you can call South Dakota Voices of Peace at 605-610-9239 or make an appointment online.
The nonprofit will also host a “Paper the City” event on Martin Luther King Day, where they will invite community members to help post flyers promoting the program throughout the city.