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Internet access has become an essential part of life — it’s hard to get anything done without it. However, for many families and households, reasonably priced high-speed internet remains out of reach.
That’s where the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) comes in. This federal program aims to make it easier for low-income families to access the internet service that’s so vital to today’s world. It provides a monthly discount on broadband service for eligible households.
In this article, we’ll cover how to apply for the ACP, explore the benefits it offers, and answer some of the most common questions.
How to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program
How to stay safe online on a budget
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The Affordable Connectivity Program is an initiative of the federal government aimed at helping low-income families get online. It was introduced in 2022 as a replacement for the older Emergency Broadband Benefit. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) with oversight from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
If you qualify for the ACP, you can receive a discount of $30 per month off your internet service plan. The amount increases to $75 per month if you live on Tribal lands. The program also provides a one-time device discount of up to $100 on a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.
Best of all, many providers have partnered with the ACP to offer high-speed internet plans for $30 or less per month. This ensures that the service is free after the ACP discount, maximizing the benefit for many users. At least 20 providers around the country have committed to providing this low-cost service so far.
The ACP is a fantastic program, but there are some limitations to bear in mind. A single household can only get the discount from one ISP at a time, and you can’t get multiple discounts within the same household (for example, two roommates). Doing so will disqualify you from the program.
Finally, if you no longer qualify for the ACP, you have to let either the program itself or your ISP know within 30 days. This could happen if your household income exceeds 200% of the poverty guideline or if you cease to participate in another program that qualifies you for the ACP.
How to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program
Applying to the Affordable Connectivity Program is relatively easy. There are multiple ways to qualify and multiple methods for ACP enrollment.
Determine whether you qualify
Your first step in applying for the ACP is figuring out whether you qualify for benefits. Because the purpose of the program is to help lower-income households, there are some specific criteria that have to be met.
The most straightforward way to qualify for the ACP is by income: if your household income is less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, you qualify. Those guidelines are as follows:
|Number of people in household||Qualifying income|
If there are more than eight people in your household, you can add another $9,440 to the amount listed (per person).
Aside from income, there are a number of other qualifiers. If you or another member of the household participate in any of these government assistance programs, you qualify automatically:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, including at USDA Community Eligibility Provision schools
The Lifeline program deserves special mention because it also provides a small discount (around $9 per month) on internet service. The two benefits can be combined, which brings the total discount to $39 per month.
If you’re not in any of the above programs, you can also qualify for the ACP under the following conditions:
- You participate in certain Tribal programs such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, Tribal Head Start, and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
- You received a Pell Grant during the current award year.
Finally, if you meet the eligibility criteria for an internet service provider's (ISP’s) existing low-income program, you also qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Contact an internet service provider
If you’re a Lifeline participant, you can enroll in the ACP directly through your ISP. The main advantage is that you don’t have to worry about filling out paperwork. It also helps skip any prolonged approval process or questions about qualification.
Even if you’re not a Lifeline participant, you may be able to enroll through a participating provider. Here’s how to sign up with some of the more popular broadband providers:
|ISP||Overview of ACP benefits|
|Comcast Xfinity||Xfinity offers the Internet Essentials Plus plan for $30 per month, which makes it free after applying the ACP discount.|
|Verizon||Verizon customers can use their ACP credit on Fios or 5G Home Internet plans. Combined with the Fios Forward program, the company's 300 Mbps plan becomes free.|
|AT&T||You can use your ACP credit toward any plan up to 100 Mbps. The company offers the $30-per-month Access plan for low-income households, which becomes free with the ACP credit applied.|
|Cox||You can apply the ACP to any Cox internet plan. Cox also has two discount programs — Connect2Compete for low-income and fixed-income families, and ConnectAssist for low-income households with no children. Both are completely covered by the ACP credit.|
|Spectrum||All Spectrum plans are eligible for the ACP credit. The company also has a plan specifically for ACP customers that comes in at $30 per month, which makes it free after the discount.|
|CenturyLink||The ACP discount can be applied to any CenturyLink internet plan. CenturyLink plans start at $50 per month, so you could get internet as low as $20 per month with CenturyLink.|
|Frontier||You can use the ACP discount on any Frontier plan. This means you could potentially get Frontier internet service at no cost.|
|Information as of 09/23/2022|
Gather necessary documentation
When you apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program, you may be asked to provide documentation proving your eligibility or identity. The exact documentation provided depends on how you qualify.
If you qualify based on participation in a government assistance program, you’ll need documentation proving your participation. The documentation needs to include:
- Your first and last name
- The name of the qualifying program
- The name of the entity that issued the document
- An issue date within the past 12 months or a future expiration date.
Examples of acceptable documentation include a benefit award letter, approval letter, or statement of benefits.
If you qualify for the ACP based on household income, you’ll need to provide proof of that income. This documentation needs to show your first and last name and your annual income. Examples include the prior year’s state or federal tax return, a current pay stub, or a statement of benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs, unemployment, or worker’s compensation.
Apply for the ACP
If you’re not part of Lifeline or your ISP’s low-income program, you may need to apply through the ACP’s website or by mail. The process is relatively straightforward:
- Visit the ACP site to apply. Click the Apply Now button. This will take you to the online application, and you can then walk through the relatively short application process. You’ll be asked for basic information such as your name, address, and proof of identity.
- Alternatively, mail in your application. If you’re not comfortable with the online application process, you can also mail in a paper application to the following address: ACP Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, Kentucky 40742. Be sure to send copies of your documents and not the originals.
- Contact your ISP to apply the discount. Once you’ve received your approval from the ACP, you’ll need to contact your internet service provider to have the discount applied to your monthly bill. If you don’t currently have an ISP, you’ll have to choose a plan with one that qualifies for the ACP—the provider you choose can help you select the best one for your family.
How to stay safe online on a budget
Once you're hooked up with internet access, you'll want to make sure you've got cybersecurity knowledge and tools in your arsenal to keep your device and personal information safe. Here are some tips for staying safe online, regardless of your budget:
- Create strong passwords for your accounts: You should create passwords with at least 12 characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, characters, and numbers, and passwords. The more unique your password is, the harder it is to get hacked. You can also use a password manager like NordPass, which keeps your data encrypted on its free product so you can keep your password data safe and all in one place.
- Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication: You can also protect your accounts by applying two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication. If you have more layers of security for your accounts, you'll be better protected from cyberthreats.
- Invest in antivirus software: With antivirus software, you can scan your devices for malicious files and remove those files if needed. Although antivirus software can be pricey, many trusted programs like Avast, TotalAV, and AVG offer free versions that come with basic features like a firewall and malware scanning.
- Secure your device while on public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi is handy if you're in need of internet, but you should be aware that these networks aren't always secure. Be sure to keep your screens away from prying eyes and lock your device if you step away from it. We also recommend using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your connection and protect your information from hackers. We've deemed Surfshark to be the best-value VPN based on its price, number of simultaneous connections, and premium features.
- Stay informed on the latest cyberthreats: One of the best ways to protect yourself online is to stay informed on online dangers. Keep an eye out for phishing, social engineering, identity theft and other scams to keep your sensitive information safe.
- Strong encryption and security
- User-friendly interface
- Free version is limited to one device at a time
Is the Affordable Connectivity Program legit?
Yes, the Affordable Connectivity Program is legit. It’s a government program, introduced in 2022, to help low-income families afford essential broadband internet. It offers a discount of $30 per month on internet service to qualifying households ($75 per month if you live on Tribal lands) as well as a one-time discount on laptop, tablet, or desktop computers.
What’s the difference between Lifeline and the ACP?
Lifeline is a government program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that helps provide affordable access to essential communication services. These services include broadband internet. The ACP, on the other hand, is a new program aimed at further reducing the cost of high-speed internet for low-income households. You can receive both benefits at the same time.
Did the Affordable Connectivity Program end?
No, the Affordable Connectivity Program did not end. In fact, it just started—it was introduced in 2022. However, another similar program did end. The ACP replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which ended in December 2021.
Internet access has become almost essential to everyday life. It’s hard to do work, school, or even keep in touch with family without it. The Affordable Connectivity Program aims to make paying for that access a little easier.
If you need help paying for internet access — or just want to save a little money each month — don’t hesitate to apply. And if you're looking for VPNs to keep your device protected without breaking the bank, we've compiled a list of the best VPNs for cheap.
- High-quality VPN offering safety and speed
- Loads of servers for multiple connection options
- Works with popular streaming services, including Netflix
- Too many confusing plans