Starting today, eligible US residents can request assistance with their Internet accounts under the new Affordable Connectivity Program. The program launched today with $14.2 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in November.
Households can apply to withdraw up to $30 per month from their Internet plan. For eligible tribal land households, the discount is up to $75 per month. The program could help connect millions of people to the Internet who could not access it at home, especially in communities that have historically faced more barriers to getting online.
According to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly a third of people living in tribal lands did not have high-speed internet at home in 2017, according to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That’s compared to just 1.5 percent of city dwellers without a high-speed internet connection. In addition to the limited infrastructure, costs are often another barrier. The United States has the second highest broadband cost of the 35 countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). And according to the US Census Bureau, Native Americans and Alaskan Native Americans have the highest poverty rate of any racial group in the US.
To even qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, one must be able to go online. They must visit ACPBenefit.org to request or print a mail-in application.
Affordable Connectivity Program eligibility individuals may also qualify for a one-time discount of $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer from participating carriers (including T-Mobil, AT&T, and Verizon).
The Affordable Connectivity Program is effectively a long-term replacement of the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit Program started to help Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. That program offered households a higher discount of $50 per month not residing on Tribal lands, and will last until March 1, 2022.
While the payout will be lower for some households, the FCC has expanded the criteria for who can apply. By eligibility for WIC (the food aid program for women, infants and children), a household is now also eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. And a household with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines is also newly eligible.
More money is on the way to close the digital divide in the US. The new $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to boost broadband access. According to a fact sheet from the Biden administration, more than 30 million Americans live somewhere without adequate broadband infrastructure.