(BPT) - The pandemic proved the importance of connectivity - to your family, friends, work, school and doctor. Wireless service, in particular, has been a lifeline for many: In fact, 15% of Americans use it as their only broadband connection. And now we have 5G for home broadband, which is another great option for home connectivity.
To keep Americans connected and close the digital divide, we must all work together - which is where a new government program, the Affordable Connectivity Program, comes in. The Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, can help you get connected whether it's for your smartphone, wireless home broadband or wired connection.
Enrolling in the ACP through a broadband provider triggers a discount of up to $30 per month on an eligible household's broadband service bill. Eligible households on Tribal lands can receive up to $75 per month. A household is eligible for the ACP if the household's income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. That comes to about $55,500 for a family of four.
The ACP benefits are also available if someone in the household meets the following criteria:
- Participates in assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC or Lifeline;
- Participates in Tribal programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
- Participates in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income internet program.
The ACP can also help with the hardware necessary to connect to the internet as ACP households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. The ACP program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
There's a two-step process to sign up:
- First, log onto ACPBenefit.org to apply or print out a mail-in application;
- Then, contact a participating provider to select a plan and have the discount applied to your bill.
Eligible households must apply through the ACP benefit portal and contact a participating provider to select a service plan. Some providers may have an alternative application that they will ask you to complete.
All three national wireless providers and many regional providers support ACP - representing approximately 95% of existing wireless subscriptions and covering more than 99% of all Americans. If you're interested in a 5G for home broadband connection, which offers the fast speeds and capacity most families need to take full advantage of the internet, wireless providers have already made it available to tens of millions of American households.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, access to the internet provides a crucial connection for all Americans. Even as the pandemic subsides, the need for connectivity isn't going to change, and Congress designed the ACP to help make sure all Americans can connect.
The ACP builds on the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a program created to keep Americans connected during COVID-19. Launched in January 2022, nearly two-thirds of the more than 11 million ACP participants are using the benefit to subscribe to wireless broadband - underscoring how wireless continues to play a vital role in ensuring that low-income consumers can affordably access the internet.