A Guide to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
Having access to broadband internet is fast becoming an essential part of daily life. When times are tough, a reduced income shouldn’t be a hurdle to accessing the internet. Instead, the US federal government has set in motion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) programs through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In 2021, the EBB program was replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and over 10 million households are enrolled in the ACP program, according to the FCC. With over $14 billion committed to the program, there is no fixed end date.
But how do you go about getting access to these benefits and where should you start? You can gain access to your broadband benefits with a few simple steps, which we’ve outlined in this guide.
Step 1: Check your eligibility
There are three major factors that determine eligibility for the program.
Your household income
The ACP is available to households that have an income that’s 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which fluctuate with household size and state. For instance, at 200%, a single-person household will earn $25,760 or less per year (in the 48 contiguous states, D.C., and territories). In Alaska, the figure is $32,180, and in Hawaii it is $29,640. For larger households, simply add an additional $9,080 per person. For Alaska, add $11,360 per person and $10,440 per person for Hawaii.
Documents that help prove your income include tax returns and pay stubs.
Your participation in government assistance programs
There are a number of programs that prequalify you for the ACP. Simply provide proof that you or a member of your household participates in government assistance programs such as:
- Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
Lifeline is another federal assistance program that benefits households by discounting their internet bills by $9/month, or $34/month for those on Tribal lands. The ACP discount will be in addition to any funds received through Lifeline. Together, these programs can make a substantial difference to your overall household internet bill. Lifeline members also don’t need to complete an ACP application, they simply just give their internet service provider (ISP) a call.
Also, there are several other programs that create easier inroads into qualifying for ACP. For example, recipients of federal Pell Grants during the current award year and those households approved for free or reduced-price school breakfast or lunch program from 2019 to 2022 also qualify for ACP. However, you may need to provide proof of participation in these programs, such as official documents or letters.
Households that qualify for ACP and are on Tribal lands have a slightly larger discount on their connectivity bills at $75/month. The Enhanced Tribal Benefit is open to those who live on qualifying Tribal lands if their household income meets the other qualifying criteria. It’s important to check whether your location qualifies as being on Tribal lands, such as federally recognized Indian tribes’ reservations, pueblos, or colonies. There are also Indian allotments, Hawaiian Home Lands, and other lands approved by qualified entities.
Substantial loss of income
You may also qualify for the ACP if your income drops significantly. To prove loss of income, you can supply documentation of furlough or termination, the closure of business, or bankruptcy. The qualifying household income threshold is slightly higher—up to $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
Step 2: Find out which discount you qualify for
If you qualify for the ACP, you can get discounts on monthly internet bills, along with a one-time equipment discount. Eligible households can receive up to:
- $30/month discount on broadband service and associated equipment rentals.
- $75/month discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands.
- $100 as a one-time discount for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. Co-payments will be more than $10 but less than $50.
It’s important to note that the discount is per household, which means the service and device discount is limited to one person per household.
Step 3: Apply for the program
When you’re satisfied that you meet the eligibility requirements, there are three ways to submit your ACP application—online, via mail, and through your ISP.
Lifeline subscribers can simply talk to their ISPs about applying the ACP discount to your bill. However, some ISPs that participate in Lifeline may not take part in ACP. In those instances, people can contact another ISP to apply both the Lifeline and ACP benefits to internet services.
Simply visit the acpbenefit.org site to complete the application online. You’ll need to register a profile so be sure to have your personal information on hand.
Apply via mail
The application forms are available on the ACPBenefit.org site along with application instructions. There is also a worksheet template available that’s helpful during the application process. Once done, send these documents along with copies of your proof of income or loss of income to:
- ACP Support Center
- PO Box 7081
- London, KY 40742
Apply through your ISP
If your ISP participates in the ACP, you have to give them a call and send your supporting documents. If it doesn’t, simply use the online tool on the ACPBenefit.org website to find an ISP that does.
Step 4: Find a participating ISP
The good news is that over 300 ISPs currently participate in the ACP program. Some of the providers that offer competitive packages may also throw in additional services to give you even more value.
You can start your search for a participating ACP by visiting the FCC’s website for the program, acpbenefit.org. Since internet options vary by location, you’ll need to double-check which ISPs provide service in your local area to narrow down your options.
A few of the best-known internet providers take part in ACP and offer extra value to subscribers through packages and discounts.
AT&T participates in ACP and also offers new applicants two connectivity packages designed for those who can’t get locked into long-term and expensive contracts. The first is are AT&T internet packages that offer speeds of up to 5Gbps in areas that allow it. There’s no annual contract, no data caps, and no equipment fees or price increases in the first 12 months.
Verizon offers home and mobile internet plans as part of its ACP packages. The company’s internet plans include free home internet with Fios Forward, which usually costs around $39.95/month. Customers enjoy internet speeds of up to 300Mbps, and the offer currently includes a $50 Verizon gift card and free setup charge (valued at $99) for those who order online. There’s also a six months free Disney bundle and a $10/month saving with Unlimited Wireless.
Those who wish to bump their line speed up to 500Mbps pay $24.99/month (usually $64.99) and enjoy the same perks as the entry-level plan. An upgrade to a 940/880Mbps line will cost $49.99/month (usually $89.99). With this plan, you’ll get all the same perks as the other tiers, along with a few extras, such as the inclusion of a router and Wi-Fi extender, 2TB Verizon Cloud storage at a value of $14.99/month, and more.
Xfinity provides the Xfinity Internet, Xfinity Mobile, and Internet Essentials products as part of their ACP offerings.
Xfinity offers three internet packages:
- Performance Pro Internet – This package offers up to 300Mbps download speed and is priced at $29.99/month for 24 months. Thereafter, it’s $59.99/month with a 1-year agreement.
- Blast! Internet – Customers get up to 600Mbps download speed at $59.99/month for 24 months with a two-year agreement.
- Gigabit – This plan offers a massive 1200Mbps download speed. It costs $79.99/month for 24 months and $89.99/month thereafter with a two-year agreement.
With Xfinity, you can also save an extra $10/month if you opt for paperless billing and automated payments for 24 months. Also, there’s no monthly rental fee for a modem for ACP subscribers.
Xfinity Internet Essentials offers users free internet services. When used in conjunction with the Xfinity Mobile Internet package, the ACP deduction will be applied to the Internet Essentials plan first. Then, the remaining funds will be allocated to the Xfinity Mobile Internet bill. With Xfinity Internet, customers can apply for the Unlimited 5G Mobile + Internet plan for $24.95/month.
Cox offers a budget-friendly internet plan that includes up to 100Mbps and can comfortably support up to five devices for moderate web surfing and social media. The plan costs $30/month, so qualifying ACP applicants may be able to use their benefits to get free internet. Existing Cox customers can apply for an ACP discount of up to $30, while those on Tribal lands may be able to receive $75/month to defray the costs of internet service.
A whole stack of benefits await Spectrum customers who qualify for ACP. Qualifying households have access to a free internet modem, high-speed internet at 30Mbps, and no data caps or contracts. You may also have access to an optional in-home Wi-Fi service for $5/month. Customers are, however, responsible for charges over $30/month ($75/month for those on Tribal land).
Earthlink offers a simple internet solution that doesn’t require credit checks, and there are no data caps on its packages. Furthermore, it offers a wireless internet solution. Customers who qualify for ACP can shave up to $30 off their monthly bill, and the packages include line speeds of 50Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1000Mbps. To get specific pricing and package information, potential customers will need to contact the company.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) the same as the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)?
While it has the same end goal of providing affordable access to the internet, the EBB and ACP are separate programs. The EBB was created to assist those in need during the pandemic and it ended on December 31, 2021. The ACP program replaced the EBB, with the aim of providing a long-term solution and will remain in place until funding runs out.
Do I get a monthly check to pay my connectivity costs?
No, your ISP applies the discount directly to your bill once you’re successfully enrolled into the program. You can sign up yourself online or via mail, or you can ask your ISP to do it on your behalf.
What happens if I exceed the income bracket?
When you get a job or increase your income and you no longer fall within the eligibility parameters, you need to notify your ISP that you no longer qualify for assistance. This is an important step to ensure that you remain eligible for assistance in the future if your situation deteriorates again. You need to take action within 30 days to avoid being disqualified.
What if my ISP doesn’t participate in the ACP?
You can use the tool on the ACPBenefit.org website to search for a participating ISP near you. In some instances, you can transfer your ACP benefit if you’ve already qualified with one provider, but you may have to reapply. When applying for ACP, you will need to provide personal information such as your full name, date of birth, home address, phone number, and written or verbal consent.
More than one member in my household applied for ACP, what now?
It’s important to only have one application in place for service and device discounts per household to avoid being disqualified.
When will the Affordable Connectivity Program end?
Unlike the Emergency Broadband Benefit, the Affordable Connectivity Program has no predetermined end date. Instead, it’s funded by the government and planned as a long-term initiative to continue affordable access to connectivity for lower-income households. The program will only end if and when funding runs out.
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