An updated federal government program provides free or discounted internet access to many Americans, including many active duty families, veterans and their survivors.
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), administered by the FCC, replaces the Emergency Broadband Assistance Program which, although open to more people, was a temporary program put in place during the COVID-19 crisis. It ended on March 1, 2022.
Who is eligible?
People eligible for CPA include those who receive other federal benefits, such as:
Those whose income is at or below the federal poverty level are also eligible. This includes a family of four earning no more than $55,500; a family of two earning no more than $36,620 or a single person earning no more than $27,180. There are higher limits in Alaska and Hawaii.
People who have a Lifeline phone can also join the program. Others may also be eligible; For more information, see the CPA website.
Even if you are not eligible under these existing stipulations, you may be eligible for the program if you receive discounted Internet access from your service provider.
What the program provides
The ACP program will pay up to $30 per month ($75 for those residing on tribal land) directly to the internet service provider. This means that if you have a discounted program like Internet Essentials from Comcast, the nation’s largest Internet service provider, it may cost you nothing as an ACP program participant.
The ACP program also offers a one-time rebate of up to $100 to cover the cost of a device to access the Internet. It can be a laptop, desktop or tablet. This does not include cell phones, large phones or “phablets” that can make mobile calls. The participant must contribute part of the total cost and the device cannot cost more than $150. Many vendors offer these devices at a steep discount to low-income customers; for example, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program offers the choice of a Windows laptop or Chromebook for $149.99.
There is a limit of one device per household.
How to register
You can apply directly to the government, but in many cases it may be easier to contact your local internet service provider directly to see if they participate in the scheme. The FCC has a list of all internet providers participating in the program to help you find a local provider.
Whichever way you apply, be aware that many documents will be required with your application. You must show proof of eligibility: either a benefit letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs or another qualifying agency; proof of address; copies of identity documents and other documents. If you are applying based on income, you may need to submit copies of tax returns or other documents.
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