Top Photo: Adobe Stock
President Biden recently announced the launch of a new program that will help about 48 million low-income households in urban, suburban, and rural communities afford broadband internet service.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed the critical need for internet access. During the Affordable Connectivity Program’s (ACP) reveal at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Biden said that “High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity.
Biden pointed to the need for kids to do their school work remotely, mentioning families having to park at McDonalds to use a Wi-Fi connection. He also mentioned the critical role that telemedicine has played in keeping seniors safe and healthy during the pandemic.
The ACP was created as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last November. In addition to money to repair roads and bridges, the funding package included $65 billion to expand access to broadband internet services everywhere in the country. Of these funds, $14.2 billion was reserved for the ACP so that low-income residents can afford the cost of broadband.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program broadband subsidy?
Low-income households qualified for the Affordable Connectivity Program can receive a $30 per month subsidy to pay for broadband internet service. This subsidy may be used for any internet service provider’s (ISP) plan.
There are also 20 ISPs that have committed to offering discounted service plans for those using an ACP subsidy.
The participating service providers will offer $30 high-speed internet plans. This means that broadband service would be available even to households with the lowest incomes in participating areas.
Here is the list of ISPs offering a $30 high-speed internet plan:
- Allo Communications
- AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telcom)
- Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink)
- Cox Communications
- Jackson Energy Authority
- Spectrum (Charter Communications)
- Verizon (Fios only)
- Vermont Telephone Co.
- Vexus Fiber
- Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV
The areas covered by these internet providers serve 80% of the U.S. population, including 50% of the rural population.
The Biden administration is working to encourage more companies to offer discounted broadband service plans.
Who is eligible for an Affordable Connectivity Program broadband subsidy?
Households with income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level qualify for an ACP subsidy. This is $55,500 for a family of four.
In addition, a household qualifies if any member participates in one of the following federal programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps)
- National School Lunch and National School Breakfast programs
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program
- Veterans Pension or Survivors Benefits
How do you apply for an Affordable Connectivity Program broadband subsidy?
The Universal Service Administrative Company administers the ACP, with oversight from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). You can find more information about the program and how to apply on the FCC’s ACP website here.
There are two steps to enroll in the ACP and receive the $30 per month broadband subsidy:
- Qualifying households must first apply to the program online at affordableconnectivity.gov.
- Qualifying households must contact their preferred participating provider to select a service plan and have the discount applied to their bill. Some providers may have an alternative application to complete
The Affordable Connectivity Program protects consumers
FCC rules protect households using an ACP subsidy in several ways, including:
- Ensuring access to broadband services regardless of credit status.
- Prohibiting providers from excluding consumers with past due balances or prior debt from enrolling in the program.
- Preventing consumers from being forced into more expensive or lower quality plans in order to receive the ACP subsidy.
- Ensuring that consumers are not liable for early termination fees.
- Providing a dedicated FCC process for ACP complaints.