The Federal government now offers free broadband! If you're familiar with the similar free Lifeline phone program, you'll already understand a lot about this most recent free internet offer. In fact, if you're already approved for Lifeline, you're automatically approved for the Affordable Connectivity Program, often referred to as ACP. If you're not already approved, here you'll find everything you need to know to get free broadband.
On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act), which included money for a long term broadband affordability program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (often referred to as “ACP”).
The Infrastructure Act implemented a $30 per month benefit to eligible customers ($75 per month for Tribal communities), and requires that broadband providers allow qualified households to apply the affordable connectivity benefit to any of their internet service offerings. In fact, broadband providers are not permitted to discriminate against ACP households by somehow crippling their regular plans, or decreasing the plan features in any way. I like to think of it as basically a coupon code that can be used towards any commercially available plan.
It's important to note that this program is not available nationwide. The spirit of this free broadband program is to get internet access to people who don't have it, or who don't have access to reasonably performing internet (i.e. way too slow speeds!). That said, the program initially is only available for those in what the FCC is defining as "unserved" (i.e. no broadband access), and "underserved" (i.e. dial-up only access) markets. So, you'll need to verify that you not only qualify, but that the discount is available in your area.
Note that as the program expands and matures, the available markets will also expand, so if you don't qualify now, you should continue to check back.
Another really interesting aspect of the Affordable Connectivity Program is that the FCC changed the definition of broadband. This has actually be under debate for many many years as technology has evolved, so it wasn't a surprise that ACP addressed this topic. With that said, the Infrastructure Bill changed the definition of Broadband from 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speeds to 100/20 Mbps (download/upload).
Eligibility for the Affordable Connectivity Program is based on one credit per household, and not per individual, and is subject to the following critieria:
Household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the following:
You can learn more about the program by visiting the official FCC Affordable Connectivity Program website, or go directly to the ACP Benefit site to begin the application process. It will take you to through the steps, including a search tool (Step 3) to find a broadband provider that offers ACP discounts. Personally, I would recommend using the search tool first before actually applying. What's the point in going through the application process and providing your personal information if there's no provider in your area!
Visit the Q&A page to discuss this Free Government ACP topic!
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