Low-income Americans Can Now Get Cheaper Internet Service Through a New U.S. Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program offers help with Internet bills to eligible US residents starting today. A bipartisan infrastructure law was passed in November that included $14.2 billion for the program.

The Verge reports that internet service bills can be reduced by up to $30 a month by applying for this offer. Households with tribal lands qualify for up to a $75 monthly discount. In communities that have faced more barriers to accessing the internet historically, this program could provide access to the internet to millions of people who do not have it at home.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that nearly a third of people on tribal lands lack access to high-speed internet at home in 2017. Only 1.5 percent of city dwellers have access to fast internet. Cost is often a barrier to accessing fast internet in addition to poor infrastructure. Out of 35 countries studied by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States has the second-highest broadband costs. According to the US Census Bureau, American Indians and Alaska Natives are the most economically disadvantaged people in the United States.

Interestingly enough, an applicant for the Affordable Connectivity Program must have access to the internet in order to apply. You can either apply online at ACPBenefit.org or by printing out its mail-in form.

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Additionally, sponsoring companies (such as T-Mobil, AT&T, and Verizon) will offer participating individuals a once-off discount of $100 on a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.

This new program gives Americans long-term access to broadband that replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program established during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under that program, families that don’t live on Tribal lands received a $50 discount a month, and that program will continue till March 1, 2022.

Although some households will receive lower payouts, the FCC expanded who will be eligible to apply. Families who qualify for WIC are now also eligible for Affordable Connectivity Program benefits. In addition, a household earning 200 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines is also now eligible.

The US is poised to get more funding to close the digital divide. A new bill providing $1 trillion in infrastructure funds includes $65 billion aimed at improving broadband access. According to a Biden administration fact sheet, somewhere around 30 million Americans lack access to adequate broadband services.

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