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This government program gets you free internet access – see if you’re eligible

Published May 19th, 2022 3:31PM EDT
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Image: Rostislav Sedlacek/Adobe

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High-speed home internet is pretty much a must-have staple of modern life, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that brought on so many work-from-home and remote schooling arrangements. The cost of that internet can be a bit of annoyance, though, especially for families that are watching every dollar of their budget closely. And it’s for that reason that the White House disseminated a fact sheet in recent days about the federal Affordable Connectivity Program that’s able to provide a bit of help.

We’ll get into what the program is and how it helps people save money below. Importantly, the Biden administration says it secured commitments from 20 top internet providers, covering more than 80 percent of the US population, to either boost their speeds or cut prices.

“From large providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon serving dozens of states,” the White House notes, “to smaller providers serving rural areas like Jackson Energy Authority in Tennessee and Comporium in North Carolina, the commitments will allow tens of millions of ACP-eligible households to receive high-speed internet at no cost.”

How does the Affordable Connectivity Program work?

Here’s the basic gist of the program, per the FCC. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a monthly discount for internet service of up to $30 per eligible household, or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands.

This is the largest high-speed internet affordability program in US history. Furthermore, there are even additional benefits besides an internet discount. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. If, that is, they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

Because the program can give participants up to a $30 monthly discount, that money can be used to get free internet via the $30 AT&T Access plan.

Eligibility requirements

Eligibility for the Affordable Connectivity Program is pretty broad-based. A household is eligible, the FCC notes, if the 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 criteria below.

  • They got a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • If they meet the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program;
  • If they participate in one of these assistance programs:
    • The National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
    • SNAP
    • Medicaid
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • WIC
    • Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
    • or Lifeline;
  • Alternatively, if they participate in one of these assistance programs and live on Qualifying Tribal lands:
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance 
    • Tribal TANF
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
    • Tribal Head Start (income-based)

How to Apply

As far as how to apply, click this link right here, which takes you to an FCC page. Scroll down until you see the yellow box. Then click the “Apply Now” button on the right.

In closing, we should add a few important points to know about applying. You’ll need to contact your preferred participating provider to select a plan and have the discount applied to your bill. Additionally, some providers may have an alternative application they want users to complete.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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