The Affordable Connectivity Program: What to Look for in an Internet Service Provider
Eligibility requirements and factors to consider when choosing an ISP for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) offered by the FCC.
For people across the United States, Internet service has become a vital utility that can directly impact a person’s quality of life. Despite this, many households still lack adequate broadband access, leaving them behind in digital connectivity.
Luckily, the U.S. government has stepped in and offered a helping hand to families and individuals with The Affordable Connectivity Program.
What Is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is an effort led by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). It is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and is designed to deliver broadband Internet service to qualifying individuals.
ACP benefits come in the form of a monthly discount of up to $30 for broadband service. The ACP also provides a lifeline to connectivity for those on tribal lands in the form of a $75 discount. Eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for a new desktop computer, laptop, or tablet when they pay between $10 and $50 for their plan.
The FCC website offers a list of available Internet service providers with both fixed and mobile plans. Eligible households can contact participating providers for more information about the service plan they offer and how to get signed up.
ACP enrollment is primarily dependent on household income. By leveraging the national verifier, the ACP can easily determine eligibility with a centralized application system. Generally, those at least 200% below the federal poverty guidelines can receive ACP benefits for the current award year.
Eligibility criteria can also be determined by enrollment in one of several assistance programs, including:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
- Head Start
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Pell Grant
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
If a child’s school participates in community eligibility provision, their household can also receive ACP benefits.
What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing an ISP?
Those receiving an ACP discount still need to consider the best option when switching services or purchasing a new service.
Many factors can influence your digital experience. Whether it’s cost, speed, or reliability, users need to be aware of what their ISPs have to offer and which items are most important.
Low-income households should be especially concerned with the price of their Internet bill. Traditional cable Internet can range from $20 to over $100 per month, depending on the package. Fiber optic Internet can cost up to $300 for the best service.
Potential customers should also be aware of added costs in the form of installation, equipment, or service fees.
Even cheap broadband service should have adequate speed. According to the FCC, a connection with a moderate level of traffic should be getting at least 12 Mbps. For households that require multiple devices to be connected at once, it’s better to have speeds up to 25 Mbps.
Some services cap speeds if users exceed bandwidth limitations.
Having the fastest Internet is useless if there are constant outages limiting the service and accessibility. Reliable Internet is essential for users who need to stay connected without disruption. While fiber optic Internet is considered to be the most reliable, mobile and satellite connections are less so, leaving users without service if they go out of range.
DSL is also considered to be a robust option due to the ubiquity of the phone lines, although it doesn’t have nearly the same speeds as fiber optics.
How Do I Sign Up for the ACP?
According to the ACP FAQs page, users can easily sign up for assistance by going to the program homepage. New applicants can fill out a form by clicking “Apply Now” while existing recipients can go straight to their account with the “Recertify” option.
Interested candidates can also apply by mail or by directly contacting a provider to see if they participate in the program. If you’re already enrolled in a Lifeline program, you won’t have to reapply. Once your application has been approved, you can find a participating ISP and select the service that’s right for you.
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