The new broadband subsidy program that the FCC just announced is called the “Affordable Connectivity Program,” or ACP for short. It’s a service of the Universal Service Fund, which used to be called the E-rate program.
The FCC created this program to decrease the digital divide in America. The digital divide is a term used for when people don’t have access or can’t afford access to broadband or high-speed internet.
So, what does this new subsidy program provide? Well, it provides discounted broadband service for eligible households. It works similar to many other government subsidized programs where you have to fill out a form and provide documentation of your household income.
Once you do that, the FCC will determine whether or not you’re eligible for the ACP facility services and discount.
How Does ACP Work?
The Affordable Connectivity Program will pay money up to a certain amount (depending on the state) to broadband internet providers.
For example, if your household qualifies for this program and you don’t have an internet connection already, a provider may pay part of what it would cost to subscribe to their service for you.
How Can You Be Eligible?
If your household income is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), you can be eligible. So, for example, if the current guidelines say you make $24,257/year or less, you would qualify for this program.
You don’t necessarily need to be on federal assistance like food stamps, but you need to be in that kind of income bracket.
Applicants should meet at least one of these criteria.
- Your home must be in an area where broadband internet (fiber, cable, DSL) is not available.
- You currently do not subscribe to broadband internet.
- You are unable to subscribe to broadband internet at your current place of residence for reasons including, but not limited to, internet unavailability of wireline broadband services in your area.
- You currently reside in an area where broadband speeds of 100Mbps downstream and 50 MBPS upstream are available.
The ACP program is only for customers who live within the United States borders. It doesn’t matter what state you live in, just that you’re a resident of the US.
Are There Any Restrictions to the ACP Program?
As mentioned before, this program is only for US residents. Also, because the money from this program comes from the Universal Service Fund, no one can use it to pay for anything other than internet service.
You can’t use the ACP facility services to pay for a real internet connection, just one piece of it.
What’s Not Covered by the ACP?
There are a few things that the ACP program does not cover.
- Wireless connections (mobile hotspots, etc.);
- VoIP phone service or home phones in general;
- Satellite; and
- ISP charges for installation and equipment charges.
How to Sign up
You have to be eligible to sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program. As mentioned before, your income must fall below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
If you don’t already have an active connection or aren’t sure, check your eligibility for this program by entering in some information:
- Your income and household size.
- Your zip code (optional).
Based on the information you provide, your service provider will let you know if you’re eligible for the ACP. If you are, your provider will take care of enrolling you in the program for free.
Before applying for this program, you won’t have to pay anymore than what you were already paying for internet service. If you have an active connection, this program is not available to you. You’ll have to find other ways to get lower prices on your internet service.
If you’re not eligible, the website will also provide you with some suggestions for other programs that may help you get broadband internet in your area.