Editor’s note: This article by Jim Absher originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
An updated program from the federal government offers free or discounted internet to many Americans, including many active duty families, veterans and their survivors.
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), administered by the FCC, replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program which, while open to more people, was a temporary program enacted during the COVID-19 crisis. It ended March 1, 2022.
Who Is Eligible?
Those eligible for the ACP include those receiving other federal benefits, such as:
- A VA Veterans Pension
- A VA Survivors Pension (also known as Death Pension)
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), or food stamps
- WIC (Women, infants and children) assistance
- Free or discounted school lunch or breakfast
- Pell grants
- Supplemental security income (SSI) from Social Security
Those with an income that is at twice the federal poverty guideline or lower are also eligible. That includes a family of four earning no more than $55,500; a family of two earning no more than $36,620 or a single person who earns no more than $27,180. There are higher limits in Alaska and Hawaii.
Persons who have a Lifeline phone can also apply for the program. Others may be eligible as well; for more information, see the ACP website.
Even if you aren't eligible under these existing stipulations, you may be eligible for the program if you are eligible for discounted internet from your service provider.
What the Program Provides
The ACP program will pay up to $30 monthly ($75 for those residing on tribal lands) directly to the internet provider. That means if you have a discounted program like Internet Essentials from Comcast, the nation's largest internet service provider, it may cost you nothing as a participant in the ACP program.
The ACP program also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 to cover the cost of a device to access the internet. This can be a laptop or desktop computer or a tablet computer. It does not include mobile phones, large phones or "phablets" that can make mobile calls. The participant must contribute a portion of the total cost, and the device cannot cost more than $150. Many providers offer these devices at a large discount to low-income customers; for instance, Comcast's Internet Essentials program offers a choice of a windows or chromebook laptop computer for $149.99.
There is a limit of one device per household.
How to Apply
You can apply directly to the government, but in many cases, it may be easier to contact your local internet provider directly to see whether they participate in the program. The FCC has a list of all internet providers participating in the program to assist you in finding a local provider.
Either way you apply, be aware that lots of documentation will be required with your application. You need to show proof of eligibility: either a benefits letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or another qualifying agency; proof of address; copies of identification documents and other documentation. If you are applying based on income, you may need to submit copies of tax returns or other documents.
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