ACP Finally Reaches Kūpuna on Hawaiian Homelands

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By Ron Kodani and Burt Lum

As the past three years of the pandemic have made clear, the importance of digital connectivity is a human right and here to stay. Reliable internet is essential for work, education, health care, news and information, maintaining social connections, and access to government services and programs. It provides telehealth to kūpuna and veterans, plugs the homework gap by enabling children to learn at home, and creates immediate and long-lasting economic benefits.

A benefit like the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps to make internet subscriptions reachable by Hawaiʻi residents who have been left out of the program due to a lack of understanding about the program, the process, or even how to get information regarding this federal benefit. It has been available in the State of Hawaiʻi since 2020, however, outreach with information about the ACP program has not been effective in reaching this audience.

That is why the Broadband Hui had its first community outreach on the island of Hawaiʻi on June 20 at the Hilo office of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. With the support of Trustee Mililani Trask and her staff, we had a wonderful first ever community outreach in East Hawaiʻi, primarily with kūpuna.

It was a challenging but fruitful event and many of the participants were able to register and secure a voucher for either the $30 or $75 credit for Homestead residents. There were a few “glitches” along the way, but Digital Equity Coordinator Amber Ternus was able to navigate through the obstacles encountered in the sign-on process.

Ternus also brought two volunteer assistants with her which made the processing faster. Sometimes, it took just 15 minutes to complete the process, while other times it took more than two hours. While the documentation requirements of the internet providers and the FCC Benefit Program posed some challenges, Ternus’ determination and tenacity made it possible for many of those who applied to reach their goal of securing the voucher.

We hope to repeat this outreach in Hilo again soon, as well as to conduct community outreach efforts on all the islands so that the ACP program can connect more Hawaiʻi households to the internet. For more information go to https://broadband.hawaii.gov/acp/.