What is Affordable Connectivity Program? – Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) historic $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure and digital equity includes $14 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program aims to close the digital divide by assisting low-income households in accessing broadband.
Those enrolled in the program will receive $30 off their monthly broadband service beginning December 31, 2021. Emergency Broadband Benefit, a similar-structured program, was replaced with the new program on March 1. The FCC adopted a final set of rules for the program on January 14.
Broadband affordability is being addressed with the ACP, one of the largest investments in the space ever made. The ACP is the only program in the BIL aimed at assisting households in areas with existing broadband service in affording that service, despite other programs in the BIL addressing other aspects of the digital divide, such as a lack of infrastructure or a lack of digital skills.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)?
Many reasons to access the internet, including work, school, healthcare, etc. As a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has been created to assist more households in affording broadband service and internet-connected devices. Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) administers ACP. The ACP offers two ways to help you afford internet service:
- Service discounts. More than 1,300 internet service providers are participating in the ACP, offering eligible households a discount of up to $30 monthly on internet services.
- Free services. To provide high-speed, high-quality internet (minimum 100 Mb per second download speed) for $30 per month or less, the government has partnered with 20 internet service providers. Your internet service will be free if you use your ACP benefit with one of the 20 partners.
How much can I get with the ACP?
Eligible households can receive the following benefits through the ACP:
- A discount of up to $30 per month is available for broadband service, or a discount of up to $75 per month is available for broadband service on tribal lands.
- You will receive a one-time discount of up to $100 if you purchase a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet through a participating provider and pay between $10 and $50 toward the purchase price.
Amount of the discount depends on the services your household chooses, but it can be up to $30 per month for eligible households. Neither your ACP credit nor your broadband service’s monthly fee will be more than your ACP credit.
- The remaining amount must be paid out of pocket if you choose a plan that costs more than $30 per month.
- You will pay nothing for internet service if you choose one of the 20 providers offering services for $30 monthly.
There is a limit of one ACP discount of $30 per month per eligible household and one ACP discount of $100 per eligible device, NOT per individual.
Who is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
If the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if at least one member of the household meets one of the following criteria, then a household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program:
- Applicants have participated in SNAP, Medicaid, the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program (Section 8 Vouchers), the Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) Program (202/811), Public Housing, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
- Activity requires participation in Tribal programs, such as General Assistance Programs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tribal TANF, Affordable Housing Programs for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, or Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations.
- The student is eligible for the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including those USDA schools under its Community Eligibility Provision.
- Recipient of a Pell Grant for the current award year;
- A low-income internet program a participating provider offers must meet their eligibility requirements.
Do I qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
This program is available to between 40 and 50 million families. If you meet the following criteria, you may qualify for the ACP:
- Those whose household income does not exceed 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
- One member of the household must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Participates in one of these federal assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- Women, Infants, and Children’s Supplemental Nutrition Program
- National school lunch program or a school breakfast program
- FPHA (Federal Public Housing Assistance)
- Benefits of Lifeline
- Pensions or Survivor Benefits for Veterans
- Awarded a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
- Meets the eligibility requirements of a low-income internet program offered by a participating provider
- The person must participate in at least one of the following assistance programs AND live on Qualifying Tribal Lands:
- BIA General Assistance
- TANF program for tribal members (temporary assistance for needy families)
- Indian Reservation Food Distribution Program
- Tribal Head Start (income-based)
How to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Contact your current internet provider directly if you already receive Lifeline benefits. It is optional for you to enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program. Depending on the service, you can use your Lifeline and ACP benefits. Contact your current internet provider directly if you currently participate in a low-income broadband service program with a non-Lifeline provider. There may be no need to submit a separate application for the ACP.
The ACP can be applied for in three ways if you don’t participate in either of the above two programs:
- You can complete the ACP application online at the Lifeline and ACP National Verifier Portal by logging in or creating an account. The online application process is fast, and in some cases, the application is approved immediately.
Sending by mail
- Follow the ACP Application Instructions after printing the ACP Application (in English or Spanish).
- To ensure that you receive the correct amount of benefits if more than one person in your household is eligible, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) recommends printing out a Household Worksheet and including it with your application. To learn more, refer to the instructions for ACP’s Household Worksheet.
- Please send the completed ACP Application Form and Household Worksheet (if applicable) to the following address:
- ACP Support Center
- P.O. Box 7081
- London, KY 40742
Directly contact your internet provider
- ACP is a program offered by many internet providers. Then you can skip the application process and work directly with them.
- Applicants can find a participating internet provider near you using the USAC’s ACP Provider Locator Online Tool.
You may be contacted by the program to provide additional information if your eligibility needs to be confirmed based on the information you provided in your application. To prevent processing delays, please include printed copies of your documents with your application if you are signing up by mail.
Documents Needed For Affordable Connectivity Program
Several documents are required during the application process based on your eligibility criteria.
- You can provide evidence of your identity, full name, and birthdate. The most common types of identification are passports, state I.D.s, government I.D.s, military I.D.s, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and green cards.
- You must provide an official document that includes your full name and current physical address to verify your address. If you are applying for a mortgage, utility bill, lease statement, etc., you must show your I.D., passport, driver’s license, and so on.
- Your annual income and full name must be submitted to verify income-based eligibility. The following documents may be submitted: pay stubs, tax returns, a current income statement from your employer, a statement of Social Security benefits, a statement of unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits, a V.A. statement, a divorce decree, a child support award, etc.
- Suppose you have participated in a government-sponsored program. In that case, you may attach a document showing your participation, the program’s name, and the establishment issuing the document.
How long will I receive the ACP benefit?
ACP benefits will remain available to you as long as you qualify. It is expected that the federal government will continue to provide funding for several years after the ACP is launched. The program will be terminated 30 days before the households enrolled are notified. Your ACP internet company must be notified within 30 days if you are no longer eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program.
What are the benefits of ACP?
Eligible consumers can receive a monthly discount of up to $30 for broadband services through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Broadband services can be enhanced up to $75 per month for consumers living on qualified tribal lands.
Is ACP the same as a lifeline?
It is not the same program. A Lifeline discount applies to bundled voice/broadband services, including phone and internet. ACP replaces EBB. The ACP also offers a one-time discount on an internet-capable device and a monthly discount on broadband services.
ACP provides eligible consumers a discount of up to $30 per month on broadband services. The Federal government offers enhanced support for broadband services to consumers living on qualifying Tribal lands up to $75 a month. Furthermore, the program offers a one-time device discount of up to $100 for laptops, desktop computers, or tablets purchased through participating providers. Consumers must co-pay more than $10 and less than $50 to receive the one-time discount.