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How the Affordable Connectivity Program Increases Internet Access for Low-Income Families.

Low income families can get significant discounts on their internet services (or even free service) from the federal government Affordable Connectivity Program, also known as ACP. The government benefit is intended to ensure lower income household have access to the internet for work, school, or even personal use. Find details on the Affordable Internet Connectivity Program below as well as how to apply. Learn how the benefit program can also help pay for a laptop, computer, or Chromebook.

Accessing the internet daily to work, pay bills, conduct banking and business, obtain an education, visit the doctor, and communicate with friends and family is now routine for many people. Many students need it for online learning and adults for remote work reasons. Having internet access has become virtually essential, but for many households struggling to get by it can be unaffordable. For many households that live paycheck to paychek, or that are on government assistance, the cost to have even basic internet service has sometimes been prohibitive.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) operated by the federal government is designed to help ensure that low-income households can obtain internet service as well as a device. The assistance is offered to low to even moderate income families.

The ACP is designed to be a long-term program providing up to $30 per month toward internet service or up to $75 for households on qualifying tribal lands. The program also provides a one-time payment of up to $100 to a household for the purchase of a tablet, laptop, Google Chromebook or desktop computer. Read more details on free government laptops.

Who is eligible

ACP service and device discounts are available to households, even including more moderate income families. A household is defined as a person or persons who live at the same address and share income and expenses. Two individuals within the same household cannot both claim the benefit.

To be eligible for ACP benefits, household income must be at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. For example, while the cutoffs will change yearly, a 4-person household must have an annual income of less than about $60,000. Households can also qualify by meeting the requirements for a service provider's existing low-income internet program.

 

 

 

Alternatively, a household will be eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if at least one member is receiving a Federal Pell Grant or receives SNAP benefits, Medicaid, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits, or WIC benefits. Participation in the Lifeline program, the National School Lunch, or School Breakfast Program also makes a household eligible.

Lifeline is a separate federal government program that helps to make communication services affordable for low-income persons, and it can also help pay for phone bills (even wireless internet). Lifeline subscribers receive discounts on qualifying telephone service, internet service, and bundled voice-broadband packages. Learn more on how to get phone bill assistance.

Persons seeking the $75 service discount do not need to be enrolled tribal members, but they must reside on tribal land. Households will automatically qualify for the Affordable Internet Connectivity Program if they receive Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance or Tribal TANF or participate in Tribal Head Start or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Persons who live in multi-unit dwellings such as apartments in which the landlord pays for internet service can still apply for ACP benefits. This means that tenants/people who rent can also enroll into the ACP program. If you're in that situation, ask your landlord to talk to the internet service provider to see what benefits may be available to you and other tenants. ACP benefits are also available to low-income persons residing in group homes.

Persons owing past due balances to their internet service providers or who have bad credit are allowed to enroll in the ACP. This will help ensure more household have access to affordable internet service – even if they struggled to pay the bill in the past.

How to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program

In most cases, persons desiring ACP benefits must enroll in the ACP program and then contact their internet service provider to apply for benefits. Applications can be submitted online at AffordableConnectivity.gov or you can print out an application to submit by mail.

 

 

 

 

Online submissions generally obtain the quickest response. Responses to mail-in applications will be provided by mail, or by e-mail if an e-mail address is provided.

If you receive benefits from such programs as SNAP or Medicaid, your household will automatically qualify for the ACP - Affordable Connectivity Program. Your eligibility may be confirmed through a check of that program's database. If eligibility cannot be confirmed by that method, you will need to provide documentation such as a benefit award or approval letter. Pell Grant recipients can simply provide a screenshot from the StudentAid.gov website showing receipt of a grant for the current school year.

Persons currently receiving Lifeline benefits don't automatically receive ACP benefits. Lifeline subscribers must either contact their existing internet provider and opt-in to the program or enroll in the ACP. Households receiving Lifeline benefits can also receive ACP benefits and apply them either to the same qualifying service or to different providers. For example, Lifeline benefits may go to a telephone service provider while the ACP discount is applied to a separate internet provider.

After your ACP application has been approved, contact your internet service provider to either select an internet plan or have the discount applied to your current plan. ACP benefits are available to new, prior, or existing customers of participating providers. The service provider may require you to complete a short application. Not all service providers participate in the ACP, so you may need to check with multiple companies if they are operating in your community.

Receiving benefits from ACP

After qualifying for ACP service benefits, your internet bill will be reduced by $30 if you already have service. The benefit is paid directly to the service provider. If your internet service costs less than $30, you will not receive the difference from the government Affordable Connectivity Program. If your internet service costs more than $30, you will have to pay the balance.

Persons who subscribe to a bundle of services, such as TV and internet from the same provider, will need to pay for TV service separately plus any internet service above the $30 discount. In other words, the ACP program will, of course, not pay for cable TV or a streaming service.

To obtain the discount for the purchase of a connectable device to benefit from the Affordable Connectivity Program , you must buy the device from your internet service provider. You will be required to pay at least $10 but less than $50 out of your pocket toward the purchase of the device.

 

 

 

Internet access is needed by everyone

The recent changes in the economy and the way people learn, mostly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, required people to rely on the internet and technology more than ever for work, school, shopping, socializing, and everyday life. The federal government Affordable Connective Program replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit, as the EBB was not enough assistance for most low income households. Kids need access for school and adults for work, job training, or just communication in general.

The ACP program helps to ensure that all people will have access to this vital communication resource. It will help low income families get access to affordable internet as well as computers. For answers to questions you may have about the Affordable Connectivity Program or to apply for benefits, go to AfforableConnectivity.gov.

 

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By Jon McNamara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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