South Dakotans missing out on broadband benefit program

Small Towns

South Dakota ranks last in the nation for enrollment in a federal initiative providing low-income households a monthly discount on their internet bill. 

According to a report released by Broadband Now in December, more than 51,000 South Dakota households qualify for the broadband benefit launched last year, but only 3,750 households are enrolled. 

The Affordable Connectivity Program, formerly the Emergency Broadband Benefit, is a valuable tool in making broadband more affordable to all households The program provides a monthly discount of $30 to qualifying households, and $75 to households on qualifying Tribal lands. Additionally, eligible households can receive up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet, as long as they contribute $10 or more toward the purchase.

To qualify for the ACP benefit, households must meet one of these criteria:

  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch/breakfast program in the 2019-20, 2020-21, or 2021-22 school year;
  • Income at below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines;
  • Participation in assistance programs, such as SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, or Lifeline;
  • Receiving a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year;
  • Meeting eligibility requirements for a broadband provider’s existing low-income program;
  • Participation in Tribal assistance programs such as BIA General Assistance, Head Start, Tribal TANF, and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Broadband access is a critical component of everyday life, essential for school, work, business, and health care services. However, 135,000 South Dakotans–or 1 in 6 residents–currently lack adequate access. The ACP provides an opportunity to decrease the digital divide by lowering the cost of services, making broadband more affordable and accessible.