What to know about the new federal program for discounted internet service

The White House announced Monday that 20 internet providers will offer low-cost or free internet service to low-income households in an effort to boost connectivity across the country.

An estimated 48 million households — about 40% of U.S. households — are eligible for the benefit under the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to the Biden administration. The $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year included $14.2 billion funding for the program.

Through the initiative, eligible internet subscribers could cut their monthly internet service costs by up to $30, while eligible households on tribal land could receive up to $75 per month.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly 16 million Americans don’t have access to a fixed broadband internet connection. In rural areas, nearly one-fourth of the population does not have access. In tribal areas, nearly one-third of the population lacks access.

In a news conference Monday, President Joe Biden said high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a “necessity.”

“When we connect people to high-speed internet, we connect them to opportunity … the opportunity to live healthier, happier and more prosperous lives,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.

Here’s what to know about ACP, including how to find out if you qualify and how to apply for the benefit.

Who is eligible?

Households are eligible if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or if a member of the household participates in other federal programs, including: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, Pell Grant and Medicaid.

A household is considered a group of people who live together and share income and expenses. They are not required to be related to each other. The benefit is limited to one per household and is non-transferable.

Find out if you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program

Your household is eligible for the ACP benefit if total income is at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines, according to the White House.

White House, GetInternet.gov

How do you apply?

You can claim your benefit online by visiting the White House website GetInternet.gov. There, you can fill out an initial questionnaire that will then direct you to an FCC online form.

Applications can also be sent by mail. Forms in English and Spanish can be found on the White House website.

If you have an existing service provider that is participating in the program, you may need to apply through the company’s application process. A full list of existing service providers is included.

To apply, you will need to provide either your Social Security number, a tribal identification number or another government identification, including driver’s license, military identification, passport or taxpayer identification number.

What is the internet speed?

Under the plan, internet providers are providing a minimum of 100 Mbps download speed — considered fast enough for a typical household of four people to video conference, stream movies or TV and more.

Who are the participating internet providers?

Twenty companies have agreed to lower their rates for eligible consumers, according to the White House.

Need a discount for a computer, tablet or other device?

Households eligible for ACP can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a device like a laptop or tablet, with a copay between $10 to $50. To get a discounted device, contact a participating company.

In Washington state, that includes: AirVoice Wireless, Assurance Wireless, Boost Mobile, Culture Wireless, Culture Wireless, Declaration Networks (NeuBeam), Easy Wireless, enTouch Wireless, Excess Telecom, FastMesh Internet, Gen Mobile, human-I-T, Inland Cellular, Locatel Communications, Native Network, North American Local, PCs for People, Q Link Wireless, Red Pocket, Selectel Wireless, StandUp Wireless, SWA CONNECT, TerraCom, Tone Communication Services, Torch Wireless, TracFone Wireless and TruConnect.

For other states, visit: fcc.gov/affordable-connectivity-program-providers.

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