Broadband Vouchers: Evaluating the Alabama Broadband Connectivity Program
November 8, 2022
The Alabama Broadband Connectivity (ABC) for Students program had high uptake among eligible families, particularly in areas with more digitally vulnerably people and areas with majority Democrat voters. The program presents evidence on three critical design elements for increasing uptake in broadband affordability programs: (1) Targeted outreach through trusted messengers; (2) Remove barriers to enrollment; and (3) Combine multiple mechanisms/network technologies.
- The ABC program had high uptake among eligible families. At the conclusion of the voucher phase of the ABC program, 43% of eligible households had redeemed a voucher. With the inclusion of hotspots, the overall participation rate in the program increased to over 60%.
- The program had higher participation rates in areas with more digitally vulnerable families. Analyzing participation rates at the Census Bureau-defined Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMA) reveals that poorer PUMAs and PUMAs with higher rates of Blacks and Hispanics had higher participation rate. This evidence suggests that populations that were most in need for assistance with broadband connectivity (low-income, Blacks, and Hispanics) were most likely to participate in the program which could mean the program was well targeted.
- Political party affiliation seem to have affected participation. PUMAs with majority Democrat residents had significantly higher participation rates. This is unsurprising, given that support for, awareness, and uptake of public assistance programs are consistently larger among democratic voters and constituencies. However, this evidence demonstrates the need for increased targeted outreach in Republican constituencies to increase program enrollment.