The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aims to provide low-income families with affordable internet services.
It replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which was established to make life more bearable for families that had lost income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
How long will Affordable Connectivity Program last? The EBB ended on December 31, 2021, but the FCC shifted its benefits to the ACP, which runs perpetually to help low-income families across the United States.
Through the ACP, one can get a $30 discount on internet bills or $75 for those living on Tribal Lands. One can also get a $100 subsidy for a laptop, desktop, or tablet.
Who Is Eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program
Besides changing the subsidy amount, the ACP also change the eligibility criteria, retaining some requirements for the EBB. Only one household member should meet at least one of the eligibility criteria for the ACP.
The following are some of the ways to qualify for the ACP:
1. Qualification Based on Income
You can qualify for the ACP if your annual household income is up to 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines based on the state where you live. In that case, you would need to prove your income by providing the necessary documentation.
Federal Poverty Guidelines vary based on your state government. Checking with the state government can help you know exactly where you fall. Subsequent sections outline the income thresholds based on the state:
2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines and ACP Income Thresholds for 48 States and the District of Columbia
|No. of persons in a household or family||2022 Poverty Guidelines||Income threshold (200% of poverty guideline)|
|Each additional household/ family member||$4,720||$9,440|
Residents of 48 states and the District of Columbia must have a $27,180 income if they come from single-member families. Every additional family member leads to a $9,440 increase in the income threshold.
2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines and ACP Income Thresholds for Alaska
|No. of persons in a family or household||2022 poverty guideline||ACP Income threshold (200% of poverty guideline)|
|Each additional household member||$5,900||$11,800|
Alaskans have different poverty guidelines that result in a $33,980 income threshold for single-member families – the income threshold increases by $11,800 with each additional family member. That means a two-member family needs a $45,780 income, while a three-member family must have a $57,580 income.
2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines and ACP Income Thresholds for Hawaii
|No. of persons in a family or household||Poverty guideline||ACP Income Limit (200% of poverty guideline)|
|Each additional household member||$5,430||$10,860|
Hawaii is one of the two states with different poverty guidelines than the rest of the U.S. A single-member family needs a $31,260 income, while a two-member household must have a $42,120 income. With each additional member, the income threshold rises by $10,860.
2. Qualification Based on Government Assistance
Did you know you can qualify for the ACP by participating in government assistance? Several programs can help you qualify for the ACP discount. At least one household member should participate in any of the following government assistance programs:
- Medical Aid or Medical Assistance
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA, Section 8)
- National School Lunch programs
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- The current year’s Federal Pell Grant
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Survivor Pension Fund
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
3. Qualification by Participating in Tribal Assistance
Are you a resident of Tribal Lands? You can qualify for the ACP if you are participating in a Tribal Assistance program. The qualifying programs may vary depending on the state government. Here are some of the most common Tribal Assistance programs:
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
- Tribal Head Start
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)General Assistance
4. Participation in Lifeline Assistance
Lifeline Assistance has pretty similar qualification requirements as the ACP. Therefore, you may qualify automatically for the ACP if you benefit from Lifeline Assistance. Of course, you must present documents proving your participation in Lifeline Assistance.
How Long Will Affordable Connectivity Program Last
There’s currently no end date for the ACP. So it will last for a long time if it continues to get government funding. For now, those who qualify for the ACP get a $30 monthly discount for internet broadband and $75 for Tribal Lands.
The FCC is yet to announce if participants in the ACP should recertify every once a year. Most likely, the ACP will work like Lifeline Assistance, which requires annual recertification to keep enjoying phone service discounts.
How to Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program
You can apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program in three ways – online, by mail, or via the internet provider. Here is a comprehensive explanation of how to apply for the ACP:
1. Online Application
You can apply for the ACP online via the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC’s) National Verifier. Before opening the website, you should have all the documents containing your name, address, date of birth, and ID.
2. In-Mail Application
You may download and print the ACP application form. After filling out the application form, attach all the necessary documents and send it to the following postal address:
- ACP Support Center
- P.O Box 7081
- London, KY 40742
To avoid a back-and-forth with the officials, attach all the required documents. You may include a cover sheet to make it easier for the team to process your application.
3. Application Via Your Internet Provider
Internet providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program have online portals through which you can submit your application. So, you may start by choosing a suitable ACP provider through the USAC website.
Benefits of the Affordable Connectivity Program
With the Affordable Connectivity Program, you get a $30 discount on the monthly internet bill for your household. For Tribal Lands, the discount is $75. Once you sign up for internet services from any provider, you can apply for the subsidy on any plan.
Additionally, the ACP offers a $100 subsidy for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. The FCC requires you to co-pay $10 to $50 for a device
The FCC pays the $30, $75, and $100 subsidies directly to the internet service provider so that they can apply it to your monthly cost of internet. So, if your internet plan is under $30 or $75 a month, you would get free internet.
A household can get only one monthly internet discount and only one discount for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. So, no two members of a household can apply for the ACP.
Examples of Internet Providers Participating in the ACP
The ACP is a program that attracts over 300 participating internet providers. You can check for the ACP participating companies via the FCC website or USAC tool. The following are some of the largest ACP providers in the United States:
|Internet Service Provider||Do they offer connected devices?|
|P.C.s for People||Yes|
|Metro by T-Mobile||Yes|
|SafeLink Wireless (Tracfone)||No|
|Sparklight (Cable One)||No|
|Verizon Fios Home Internet||No|
Examples of ACP Discounted Internet Service from the ISPs
Each ISP has unique internet plans for its customers. Some plans may have existed long before the companies joined the ACP program. Here are examples of ACP discounted internet services from the ISPs:
You can use the ACP benefit on any of the AT&T internet plans. Low-income families may take advantage of Access from AT&T, which is the company’s most affordable internet plan. For $30 monthly, they can enjoy free unlimited internet at 100Mbps download speeds.
Cox features two discount programs for low-income families. The first is the Connect2Complete plan, which targets fixed- or low-income families. ConnectAssist is for low-income families without children.
For $30 per month, you get 1.25TB of data and access to Wi-Fi hotspots countrywide. With the ACP, these plans are free of charge.
Mediacom allows all its eligible customers to participate in the ACP and use the discount on any available plans.
Low-income families can benefit from the Connect-2-Complete program if they have a K-12 student and a child on the National School Lunch Program.
For $10, you get download speeds of up to 25Mbps, and for $30, the download speed rises to $100Mbps. Both plans are free once you get the $30 ACP discount.
Households with kids in the National School Lunch Program and senior citizens can participate in the Optimum Advantage Internet Program.
It is a no-contract internet plan that includes a modem, router, unlimited data, and free installation. For $15 a month, users get 50Mbps of internet speed. The plan is entirely free with the ACP benefit.
Spectrum customers can use the ACP benefit on all the organization’s internet plans. For $30, they can enjoy 100Mbps internet speed, a modem, and Wi-Fi. So, all ACP-eligible customers get a free broadband service.
6. Starry Internet
You can apply for the ACP benefit on any Starry Internet broadband plan. With the Starry Connect plan, you get free internet at 30Mbps download speeds using the ACP discount.
ACP benefits apply to both Verizon Wireless and Verizon 5G Home Internet. If you’re on the Fios Forward program, you can combine its benefit with the ACP and get an internet plan with 300Mbos speeds. Besides, you can get discounted service on the 500Mbps and Gigabit plans.
Comcast is a pioneer in offering affordable internet plans for low-income families. A case in point is Internet Essentials at $10 monthly for free equipment and no-contract broadband service with 50Mbps download speeds.
With the ACP, low-income families can enroll for Internet Essentials Plus and get 100Mbps download speeds free. Non-ACP customers pay $30 a month.
The Bottom Line
How long will Affordable Connectivity Program last? So far, all indications are that the ACP is a long-term program. With a $14-billion-dollar investment into the program, the government will likely keep funding.
So, you shouldn’t expect the ACP to end like the time-limited EBB, which ended on December 31, 2022. Even though unclear, ACP beneficiaries should renew their participation in the program annually.
Yes, the ACP is similar to the EBB, having replaced it on December 31, 2022. The qualification criteria for the ACP are slightly different from the EBB, especially the 200% of poverty guidelines income threshold. The ACP retains the EBB’s $75 benefit on Tribal Lands but now offers $30 instead of $50 in other areas. ACP-eligible members also get a $100 subsidy on a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
Unlike the EBB, the ACP is long-term and can last for as long as it gets government funding. So far, the government has funded the ACP with 14 billion dollars, with possible further funding in the future.
No, you cannot receive the ACP discount directly in your bank account or as a check. The FCC pays the ACP discount directly to the ISPs to reduce the cost of your monthly internet bill. So, you have to sign up with an ISP to receive the discount.