How to Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program

High-speed internet access has become an essential utility for households across America. But for many families struggling to make ends meet, paying for home internet service poses a significant financial burden. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) aims to change that by making broadband more affordable for low-income households.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll walk through everything you need to know about the ACP, including how to determine if you qualify, what benefits it offers, and step-by-step instructions for applying. We‘ll also provide tips on how to stay safe online once you have an internet connection, even on a limited budget.

What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a long-term successor to the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program launched in 2021. It was authorized by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021.

The ACP is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and provides eligible low-income households with discounts on monthly broadband service and connected devices. Specifically, the ACP offers:

  • Discount of up to $30/month (or up to $75/month on Tribal lands) on internet service from participating providers. This effectively makes internet free for eligible households if their provider offers a plan for $30 or less per month.

  • One-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is available to new and existing customers of participating broadband providers. Unlike the EBB, the ACP does not have an end date and will continue providing discounts for as long as funding remains available.

Am I Eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

You may qualify for the ACP discount if your household meets any of the following criteria:

  • Your income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For a family of four, this equates to an annual income of $55,500 or less.

  • You participate in certain assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline.

  • You participate in Tribal programs like Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

  • You received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.

  • You meet the eligibility criteria for an existing low-income or COVID-19 program offered by a participating broadband provider.

Note that the ACP is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household, not per individual. A household is defined as any individual or group of people who live together at the same address and share income or expenses.

You can check your eligibility and view full criteria for qualifying programs on the ACP website.

How to Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program

If you meet the eligibility requirements, signing up for the ACP is simple. There are a few different ways to submit an application:

Apply Through Your Internet Service Provider

Many participating ISPs allow existing customers to enroll directly through their website or customer service line. Contact your provider to ask about applying for the ACP discount.

Some providers like Comcast even offer special low-cost plans for ACP recipients that reduce the standard monthly rate to $30 so it becomes free after the ACP benefit is applied.

Apply Online Through

You can submit an online application through the National Verifier website This portal can instantly confirm your eligibility if you‘re enrolled in an eligible government assistance program.

If instant eligibility can‘t be verified online, you‘ll need to upload documents as proof of your participation in a qualifying program or income level.

Mail a Paper Application

Print and mail a completed ACP application form along with copies of your proof of eligibility to:

ACP Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742

Application forms are available for download on the ACP website. Do not mail original documents.

Apply Through a Participating Provider

Some participating broadband providers and hundreds of local community organizations can assist you with submitting an ACP application.

Find an application center near you using the "Find Help To Apply" tool on the ACP website.

What Documentation Is Needed to Apply?

Applicants must provide documentation proving either their participation in an eligible assistance program or their household income level.

If you qualify based on your income, you‘ll need to submit one of the following showing your full name and current income level:

  • Prior year‘s state, federal, or Tribal tax return
  • Current income statement from an employer or paycheck stub
  • Social Security statement of benefits
  • Veterans Administration statement of benefits
  • Retirement or pension statement of benefits
  • Unemployment or workers‘ compensation statement of benefits

Or documentation showing participation in one of the following programs:

  • SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch or School Breakfast program
  • Tribal program assistance

The documentation must have been issued within the previous 12 months or include an expiration date that has not passed.

How to Use the ACP Benefit

Once approved, you can start receiving your ACP discount by following these steps:

  1. Select an ACP participating provider – Choose an internet service provider that takes part in the program. Visit the FCC‘s ACP Providers page to see a list of participating companies in your area.

  2. Choose a service plan – Pick an internet service plan offered by the participating provider. The ACP discount can be applied to any residential service plan, even bundled plans that include other services like phone or cable TV.

  3. Inform your provider – Contact your chosen provider to inform them you‘ve been approved for the ACP and wish to enroll in their services using your ACP benefit.

  4. Apply discount – The provider will apply your ACP discount to your monthly internet service bill, reducing your cost by up to $30 per month.

  5. Pay remainder of bill – You‘ll pay just the remaining portion of your monthly bill after the ACP discount is applied. This could make your internet service completely free if your provider offers a plan normally priced at $30 or less per month.

  6. Recertify eligibility – ACP recipients must reconfirm their eligibility at least once per 12-month period to continue receiving the benefit. Your provider will contact you when it‘s time to recertify.

Tips for Staying Safe Online When on a Budget

Having home internet access can open up many opportunities. But it also comes with potential risks like identity theft, online scams, and other cyber threats. Here are some tips for staying safe online even if you‘re on a tight budget:

  • Use strong passwords. The longer and more complex, the better. Consider using a free password manager like Bitwarden if remembering many passwords is a challenge.

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA adds an extra layer of security beyond just a password. Many major online accounts offer 2FA either through an authenticator app or text message.

  • Avoid clicking random links or attachments. Phishing scams try to steal personal data by getting users to click malicious links in emails or texts. When in doubt, confirm a link is legitimate by typing it directly into your browser.

  • Only connect to secure Wi-Fi. Home wireless networks should always be password-protected. Never enter sensitive info on public Wi-Fi. Instead, use a free VPN like ProtonVPN to encrypt your connection.

  • Use antivirus software. Protect devices from malware, viruses, and other threats. Quality free options include Avast, AVG, and Windows Defender.

  • Disable unwanted browser extensions. Browser add-ons can collect your browsing data or inject ads. Only enable extensions you know and trust.

  • Keep software updated. Applying latest security patches helps close vulnerabilities. Enable auto-updates whenever possible.

  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network like ProtonVPN or Surfshark encrypts your internet connection to keep browsing private and secure.

Staying vigilant is key to protecting yourself online, even on a limited income. Following these tips can help minimize your risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply for the ACP if I already have internet service?

Yes, current broadband customers can apply for the ACP discount on their existing home internet service. Contact your provider to switch your plan.

Can the ACP benefit be transferred to a new address if I move?

Yes, ACP recipients can transfer their benefit when moving to a new address by contacting their participating broadband provider and updating the service address.

What if I can‘t get broadband internet service at my address?

If your home address is in an area without broadband infrastructure, you may be eligible for an ACP benefit to purchase internet service through an alternative provider like a community Wi-Fi network, cellular data provider, or satellite company.

What happens when my ACP eligibility expires?

ACP recipients must reconfirm their eligibility every 12 months. You‘ll need to verify you still qualify under program rules to continue receiving discounts. Your provider will contact you when it‘s time to recertify.

Can I receive both Lifeline and ACP benefits?

Yes, people who qualify for both Lifeline and the ACP can enroll in both programs and receive benefit discounts from each one. They can be combined for a total monthly discount of up to $49.95 on home broadband service.

Closing Thoughts

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides much-needed monetary relief that can make broadband internet service attainable for millions of lower-income families. Following the steps outlined above makes applying straightforward so you can start reaping the benefits of discounted home internet.

Remember to also utilize available cybersecurity resources like VPNs, password managers, and antivirus software to keep your devices, connection, and data secure. With some vigilance, you can safely unlock all the opportunities the internet provides no matter your financial constraints.

Luis Masters

Written by Luis Masters

Luis Masters is a highly skilled expert in cybersecurity and data security. He possesses extensive experience and profound knowledge of the latest trends and technologies in these rapidly evolving fields. Masters is particularly renowned for his ability to develop robust security strategies and innovative solutions to protect against sophisticated cyber threats.

His expertise extends to areas such as risk management, network security, and the implementation of effective data protection measures. As a sought-after speaker and author, Masters regularly contributes valuable insights into the evolving landscape of digital security. His work plays a crucial role in helping organizations navigate the complex world of online threats and data privacy.