A reliable internet connection is a modern necessity. Our jobs, hobbies, and social lives largely exist online, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. If anything, it’s only making things more difficult for those without access to an affordable and reliable connection to the internet. The American government knows this, which is why they’ve spent the last number of years designing and funding a variety of federally funded affordable internet programs to help level the playing field. These programs are working to bridge the digital divide, ensuring equal opportunities for all. Start a search today to find out if you qualify for free internet service.
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was established as a part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November 2021.1 The program replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which was implemented temporarily to support broadband access during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the ACP is to ensure that low-income households have consistent access to essential internet services, recognizing the growing importance of digital connectivity in everyday life.
The ACP is designed to aid households facing financial difficulties in affording broadband internet services. If you or someone in your household is a participant in government assistance programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or if your household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you may qualify for the ACP.
How to Sign Up
To apply for the ACP, you can go online to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website. This platform provides a comprehensive guide on how to complete the application process.2 Those that prefer a paper-based approach can mail a printed application form. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer guidance and assistance throughout the application process too. So don’t hesitate to reach out to your local ISP if you need help with your application.
What You Should Know
The ACP provides significant discounts to eligible households, offering up to $30 per month towards broadband services. For those living on Tribal lands, this assistance increases to $75 per month. Furthermore, the program extends a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchase.
There are numerous providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program across the United States.3 Some notable examples include:
- AT&T: As one of the largest broadband providers in the U.S., AT&T offers several options for qualifying customers under the ACP.
- Verizon: Verizon, another major player in the telecommunications industry, participates in the ACP across its different internet service platforms, including Fios, 5G Home Internet, and LTE Home Internet.
- Comcast: Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has been a popular low-income broadband service for years, and they now participate in the ACP as well.
- T-Mobile: T-Mobile provides a variety of options for eligible customers, including home internet service, under the ACP.
- Charter Communications (Spectrum): As one of the largest broadband providers, Spectrum also offers discounted services for qualifying households under the ACP.
- Cox Communications: Cox provides a range of affordable internet options through its Connect2Compete program, and also participates in the ACP.
- CenturyLink: As a significant provider, especially in rural areas, CenturyLink’s participation in the ACP helps ensure widespread access to affordable connectivity.
- Windstream: Windstream offers a variety of internet services across several states and participates in the ACP.
In addition to the national providers mentioned above, there are many regional and local providers also participating in the ACP. It’s always best to check the ACP’s official website or directly with your local provider to confirm their participation and understand the specific options available to you under the program.
Other Free Internet Options for Low-Income Americans
If you don’t qualify for free internet access, you aren’t entirely out of luck. The internet is full of low-cost alternatives for low-income Americans. Some options include:
Lifeline is a longstanding program that offers significant discounts on phone and internet services for eligible low-income consumers.3 The program operates on a similar eligibility basis as the ACP.
School and Library Programs
Many local school districts and libraries provide free internet access or Wi-Fi hotspots to low-income students and families. In some cases, these institutions may even lend out devices for home use. Such programs are particularly useful for students needing internet access for remote learning or adults seeking employment opportunities.
Non-profit organizations play a vital role in providing affordable or free internet access to those in need. Organizations like EveryoneOn partner with ISPs to offer low-cost internet and computer options to low-income households.4 These organizations also provide tools to help you find service providers and offers in your local area.
Find Free Internet Today!
Government initiatives like the Affordable Connectivity Program and the Lifeline Program, along with other public and private initiatives, strive to ensure that every American has access to the online world without undue financial burden. If you think you might qualify for these programs, don’t hesitate to apply. Remember, this is just a starting point, and there may be other local or state programs available. Keep researching online to discover other opportunities that could help keep you connected for less.