A Guide to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
One lesson we have all learned during the pandemic is that it’s important to have a reliable internet connection at home. It helps you to work from home, keep up with schoolwork or remote learning, and ensures we are entertained when we can’t gather physically. While home internet may be an essential service, it doesn’t come cheap and many people often struggle to get connected.
Luckily, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a new long-term $14 billion initiative that aims to close the digital divide by helping low-income families get and stay connected to the internet.
In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about the ACP.
Affordable Connectivity Program: What is it?
The Affordable Connectivity Program replaces the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) and provides those who qualify with a discount of $30/month off their internet bill. The discount from the ACP may go up to $75/month if you live on tribal lands.
The new ACP also includes a one-time discount of about $100 for items such as a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet (with a co-payment of between $10 and $50). Under the program, each household is allowed a discount on a single device and one monthly service discount.
Now that you know what ACP is, here are key things you need to know to take advantage of it.
Find out if you are eligible for the ACP
You are eligible for the ACP if at least one person in your household meets the following requirements:
- Enjoys Lifeline benefits (a federal program that lowers the cost of phone or internet service).
- Earns an income that is within or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
Anyone who participates in one of the following assistance programs may also be eligible:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pensions and Survivors Benefit
- Participates in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision
- Takes part in tribal programs, like the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, or Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
You also need to submit one of the following documents as proof of participation in these programs:
- Approval letter
- Benefit verification letter
- Benefit award letter
- Statement of benefits
- School enrollment form
These documents should contain:
- The name of the program you qualify for.
- First and last name of the household member.
- Date of issuance within the last 12 months or future expiration date.
- The name of the tribal entity, government, school, program administrator, college, or university that issued the document.
How to apply for ACP benefits
People who qualify for the ACP can apply in the following ways:
- Online application through the ACP website.
- By mail using printable applications found on the ACP website.
- Contacting your internet service provider (ISP).
Online application for the ACP
If you decide to apply via the ACP website, you will need to provide the following information:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- A type of identity – either your social security number, tribal ID number, or a government-issued identity, such as a driver’s license, passport, or taxpayer ID number.
- A scanned photo or image of your ID (you can take a photo with your mobile phone).
Mail application for the ACP
Applicants can mail their paperwork to the following address:
ACP Support Center
PO Box 7081
London, KY 40742
You can accelerate the approval process by sending the required documents via email. Also, include a cover letter (PDF) with your ACP application ID and name so that the processing team can match your application with your documents.
Send the application through your ISP
Another option is to contact your ISP directly and ask if they participate in the ACP. If they do, they may be able to assist you through the steps required to complete the application process.
Some ISPs have committed to being involved with ACP. You can have a look at the state-by-state list at Federal Communication Commission to find out which ISPs are available in your area.
Get your paperwork ready
If necessary, you need to prepare the necessary documents. If you decide to submit your application via mail, you don’t need to send your original documents, only copies.
That said, you will need to provide documents such as:
- Proof of income, including pay stub, tax return, or Social Security statement.
- Proof of participation in the program, including benefit verification letters, approval letters, or statements of benefits.
Check out the ACP site’s “Show You Qualify” page for an exhaustive list of the required documents.
Some eligible applicants can “skip the line”
Consumers that are already part of the Lifeline program, are qualified to directly enroll in the ACP and don’t have to present a new ACP application. Those that participate in low-income programs with other service provider are also eligible to directly enroll in the ACP. There is one requirement though, you’ll need to follow up with your ISP and ensure it’s gotten the go-ahead from the FCC to proceed with this step.
Which ISPs are participating in the ACP
If you’re eligible for the ACP, you will need to inform your ISP of your participation in the program so that they can apply the discount to your monthly internet bill.
Various broadband providers, including those offering wireless, wired, and mobile broadband participate in the ACP. Depending on your location, you may have a choice between several providers including Xfinity, AT&T, Mediacom, Cox, Spectrum, Optimum and Verizon, to name a few.
To find out which ISPs are participating in the ACP in your area, you can reference the exhaustive FCC’s state-by-state ACP participants list.
How does the ACP offer protection to participants?
FCC rules protect ACP participants in several ways including:
- Allowing consumers to select the service plan that best fits their needs including an action plan they may have subscribed to already.
- Prevents ISPs from locking out consumers who have past balances due or debt from applying for the program.
- Ensures they have access to broadband services that participate in the ACP no matter the status of their credit.
- Prevents consumers from being forced to take lower quality and more expensive plans to receive ACP benefits.
- Reduce incidences of an emergency bill or other financial harm.
- Ensure that consumers are not forced to pay early termination fees.
- Allow participants in the ACP to switch ISPs or broadband service plans.
- Provide a dedicated FCC process for complaints related to the ACP.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How long do the ACP benefits last?
Currently, the ACP is a long-term program. Since the government has invested about $14 billion in the program, consumers can expect to continue using the program indefinitely. Customers that are enrolled in this program will be notified at least 30 days prior to the end of the program.
What is the value of the ACP benefit?
The ACP provides a discount of up to $30/month, which may go up to $75/month for consumers living on tribal lands that are federally recognized.
Do I still qualify for the ACP if I haven’t paid my internet bill?
If you meet one or more of the eligibility rules for the ACP, you still qualify to receive the benefit even if your existing internet plan is past due.
Is it possible to transfer my ACP credit between service providers?
ACP benefits are limited to one per household and you can only apply to one provider at a time. While you may decide to transfer your ACP benefit to another provider participating in the program, you may only transfer once per service month.
What happens to my ACP benefit if I move?
If you decide to move, your eligibility to receive the program doesn’t change. All you need to do is update your information on the ACP website, then reapply with your provider of choice.
For areas that are not serviced by your provider of choice, ensure you check with your new ISP to find out if they are also participating in the ACP to ensure your benefits continue.
Can I transfer my ACP credit to another household or person?
The ACP benefit is limited to one per household and it’s not transferable to another person or household even if they also qualify for the program.
Is it possible to apply for both the ACP credit and Lifeline benefits concurrently?
Yes. It’s also possible to combine the benefits with other local and state benefits that may be available. If you’re enrolled in the Lifeline program, you don’t have to reapply for the ACP. These benefits can be applied to the same eligible service or separately to an ACP or Lifeline service with the same or different providers. For instance, a qualified household can have mobile phone service that is supported by Lifeline and a different home ISP that is supported by the ACP.
I share an address with a different family. Are we eligible for the ACP?
Since the ACP support households, both you and other families sharing an address can qualify for the ACP. The only requirement is that each family must contribute to and share the income and expenses of their individual household.
How long does it take for my ACP application to be approved?
Once you submit your application, the response rate depends on your ISP. If you decide to apply online, you may receive immediate approval. If you don’t qualify automatically, you will be asked to provide additional documents for further review.
Can I get free internet with the ACP?
Yes. All qualified customers can access free internet with plans of up to 100Mbps with the ACP. However, it all depends on the location and your internet service provider. Some speeds may not be available in all areas.
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