You might be eligible for either free or low-cost high-speed internet connection under a federal initiative, depending on your financial situation.
The Affordable Connectivity Program offers eligible households a monthly service discount of up to $30 or up to $75 if they reside on qualified tribal territories. After a copay of $10 to $50, it also permits a one-time discount of up to $100 on a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from a partner provider.
According to a projection from the Federal Communications Commission, the service is accessible to about 48 million families, or about 40% of American households. More than 13.4 million homes have signed up for the program since it began on December 31.
Here is why the program was created
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in November, is what gave rise to the initiative. It is intended to completely replace the pandemic-related Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. Through that temporary initiative, around 9 million households registered, and most of them were switched over to the new scheme earlier this year.
“The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit proved what many knew to be true: The cost of high-speed Internet is out of reach for too many of us,” during the new program’s official introduction last year, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel made a statement.
Although the temporary arrangement offered nontribal households a higher monthly reward — up to $50 as opposed to the current $30 — the new scheme is meant to reach a larger number of households with extended eligibility.
20 Internet service providers covering more than 80% of the U.S. population agreed to offer plans for no more than $30 through the new scheme, according to the Biden administration’s announcement in May. This implies that some households may not have to pay anything for their service once the subsidy is applied.
The initiative currently has more than 1,300 providers signed up. States are receiving funding to improve their broadband infrastructure through a $10 billion fund created by the American Rescue Plan of 2021, with the agreement that they must join the new program once the improvements are finished.
There are numerous methods to be eligible for subsidies
Depending on household size, having a gross income that is no higher than 200% of the federal poverty line is one method to qualify. For a family of two, the limit on income would be $36,620; for a family of four, it would be $55,500. For all household sizes, there are higher thresholds in Alaska and Hawaii.
The FCC informed CNBC that gross income includes all types of income aside from those specifically excluded by the IRS, such as death benefits from a life insurance contract.
There are additional eligibility requirements in addition to income-based eligibility. You can take part, for instance, if you or a member of your household was awarded a federal Pell Grant for this academic year. Or, you might be able to be accepted into an existing low-income program run by a partnering provider.
Receiving assistance from social programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, free or reduced-price school meal programs, and others are other ways to qualify. On its website, the FCC lists every method of qualification in detail. While some consumers’ eligibility may be automatically confirmed, others will need to provide supporting information for assessment.
According to the Biden administration, the plans offered under the Affordable Connectivity Program have a minimum download speed of at least 100 megabits per second, enabling numerous users to connect to the internet at once for telework, distance learning, or health monitoring.
If you have difficulties when attempting to apply for the program, you can contact the support center by phone or email.