(NEWARK, NJ) -- Invest Newark and Newark Alliance announced that more than 31,000 Newark households now have high-speed Internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), saving Newark families nearly $1 million a month. The ACP provides a $30-a-month discount to eligible households, enabling them to obtain free or discounted Internet service from most home and wireless providers.
Newark has a digital divide caused by lack of access and adoption of broadband. According to 2021 U.S. Census numbers, nearly one in five Newark households do not have an Internet subscription at home. Additionally, 10 percent of Newark families lack a computer.
“The city of Newark is pursuing a series of initiatives to support broadband access and adoption – enabling residents to work from home, complete schoolwork and online courses, attend telehealth appointments and more,” said Marcus Randolph, president and CEO, Invest Newark. “Promoting the adoption of ACP is the first part of that work.”
About half of Newark’s 110,000 households are eligible for the ACP program. With outreach underway, nearly 30 percent of the city is enrolled, with 10,000 households added in 2023 alone.
“Invest Newark and the Newark Alliance are laser focused on closing the digital divide in Newark and ensuring that all residents have access to affordable high-speed Internet,” said Aaron Meyerson, Newark’s chief innovation economy officer and director of broadband. “Though the ACP program is the most immediate plan to connect residents, we will be rolling out additional programs soon, including connecting public housing buildings and rolling out free Wi-Fi downtown.”
“There is a huge information gap in Newark; many people here don’t have high-speed Internet access at home because of the cost,” said Andrea McLean, ACP outreach ambassador for Invest Newark. “When I tell people living in homeless shelters and those receiving NJ SNAP benefits that they qualify for free Internet service, they are really excited as it’s a huge opportunity to get connected.”
Earlier this year, Invest Newark received a grant of $400,000 from the Federal Communications Commission to promote participation in the ACP. One of just four recipients in the state, Invest Newark’s initial goal was to increase adoption from 36 percent of eligible households to over 50 percent. Households are eligible for the program based on their household income or if they qualify for federal programs such as Medicaid or food stamps.
“Our new goal is to have 70 percent of the eligible households sign up for the program by June 2024, and we are likely to surpass that,” continued McLean.
“A quality Internet connection is not a luxury; it’s a necessity that unlocks opportunities in jobs, schooling, healthcare, and more,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “This milestone is testament to the hard work of Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s administration, Invest Newark, Newark Alliance, and many others to increase access and expand opportunity in Newark. I’m committed to continue working with them as I fight in Congress to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, a vital investment in working families in Newark and across America.”
“For a long time, closing the digital divide focused on one part of the equation – the lack of physical infrastructure to get online. But we know that for many people, even when there was technically access, the cost to get online was too high. Thanks to investments from Congress, we have new tools to tackle both challenges, including the Affordable Connectivity Program that is helping struggling families to get or stay online to pay for this modern-day necessity,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
“A big part of our success in so many aspects of life in Newark is our commitment to connecting with each other – and the Internet is such an important way to do that,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “We’re grateful for the Affordable Connectivity Program that supports our citywide, multi-phase approach to promoting residents’ fast, affordable access to this critical resource for work, school, community engagement, telehealth and so many other activities that unite us as Newarkers.”
“The Newark Alliance has been working to advance equitable economic growth in Newark for 25 years,” said Evan Weiss, CEO of the Newark Alliance. “However, the pandemic laid bare what many of us already knew: access to high quality broadband is inseparable from meeting our broader mission. Our work advancing the ACP is a key part of that initiative and we look forward to doubling down on this effort in 2024.”
The ACP provides a $30-a-month subsidy to eligible households for their internet or mobile phone bill. Households are eligible for the program if they qualify under federal programs such as Medicaid, food stamps or based on their household income. To learn more and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program, click here or, visit any Newark Public Library on Mondays from 10:00am to 1:00pm. To check if you qualify or identify which Internet providers offer the benefit near you, visit www.getinternet.gov.
Invest Newark, the city's Economic Development Corporation, propels economic growth by championing small businesses, improving internet access, and facilitating real estate development. These endeavors lead to job creation and wealth generation, enhancing the overall welfare of Newark's residents. Distinguished by our unwavering dedication to equity and sustainability, Invest Newark stands apart as a forward-thinking development agency.
The Newark Alliance, through the combined strength and collaboration of its Members, drives inclusive economic growth for all of Newark, New Jersey. Our Members comprise Newark's premier businesses, anchor institutions, and community partners, including Fortune 100 & 500 companies and several of the country's top universities, developers, hospitals, and arts institutions. United by a shared vision, the Alliance and its Members work collaboratively to cement Newark’s status as one of America's most diverse, prosperous, exciting, and equitable cities.