Qualified low-income households can sign up for discounts of $30 or $75 per month. There is a catch, though — time is running out. The deadline to sign up for internet and laptop discounts is February 7, 2024.
These deals are part of the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps almost 23 million households nationwide access the internet.
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What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
A bipartisan measure, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) came about during the height of lockdown. Pre-pandemic, many low-income households nationwide were missing out on high-speed internet access, but the switch to remote work and e-learning made quality internet at home a must-have.
While local and state programs tried to fix the issue, more was needed to prepare for the onslaught of remote schooling and work. Congress approved the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to provide high-speed internet access to those in need during the pandemic.
The ACP is an outgrowth of that emergency action. President Biden restructured the program in 2022 with funding from the Internet for All Initiative and the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act. Similar to a housing voucher program, participating internet providers allow households enrolled in the APC to use their discounted rates to access high-speed internet.
Households on tribal lands pay more for high-speed internet due to the cost of creating and servicing of a large-scale remote network resulting in a larger discount for approved customers.
Who qualifies for the program and how much it costs
To be eligible to participate in the program, households must fit a specific set of requirements.
- Household income must be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- Households can also participate in the program if a family member received a Federal Pell Grant, SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, federal housing assistance, veterans pensions, or is using other government assistance plans, like free school lunch.
- Individuals who make $30,120 or under, households at or below the poverty line, and Native Americans not living on tribal lands receive a $30 discount for high-speed internet access.
- Households on tribal lands that receive assistance are also eligible to participate in the program and receive a $75 discount.
- Those same households can also receive a $100 discount on the purchase of a laptop or desktop computer.
To enroll, visit GetInternet.gov (English) and Accedeainternet.gov (Espanol) and complete the online application. The application can also be printed and mailed in. Once their application is approved, consumers should contact a local internet provider that is part of the program and select a plan. The discount is then applied to the bill. A list of participating internet providers is available on the FCC website.
The future is in jeopardy: What’s happening in Congress right now
The deadline to enroll in the ACP is 11:59 pm ET on February 7, 2024, but funding for the program is scheduled to run out this spring. A bipartisan bill, introduced by Sen. Peter Welch, D-VT, Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-NV, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-OH, and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, aims to secure $7 billion to continue funding the ACP through December 2024. The bill is currently in the Appropriations Committee and the White House included it in its Summary of Funding Request to Meet Critical Needs to Congress.
“This program now helps 23 million households nationwide — in rural America, urban America, and everything in between — get online and stay online so that they have the high-speed internet service they need to fully participate in modern life,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a letter to Congressional leaders.
To help consumers prepare for a potential worst-case scenario — the discontinuation of the ACP — the FCC created a wind-down fact sheet. The document explains that households that apply and are approved for the ACP by February 7 will receive a discounted rate until April, when funding is expected to run out.
If you feel your family is eligible for the program, apply now to take advantage of the discount service while it is still available. If your household is not eligible, it may still pay to shop around for internet providers and see if by switching services you might be able to keep more money in your bank account for other things.
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