President Joe Biden announced the start of the Affordable Connectivity Benefit program this week.
The benefit provides a $30 discount for high speed internet service to qualifying households. Families who live on tribal lands can receive discounts of up to $75 per month. The benefit also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer.
For most households, the discount will mean free service. The Biden Administration worked with 20 internet service providers who agreed to either lower their service fee or increase the internet speed to offer 100 Mbps service for $30 a month. The service areas of participating providers cover 80% of the U.S. population and as many as 48 million households qualify for the program.
Here’s how to sign up.
Step 1: See if you qualify
There are three ways to qualify for the new benefit.
The program is open to anyone who is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For one person, the income cap is $27,180. A household of two can make no more than $36,620 total. For three people in the household, the total is $46,060 and a family of four’s income should be $55,500 or less.
If you or someone in your household participates in one of the following government programs, your household is eligible:
Some internet providers have discounted services for those with a low income. If you qualify for your provider’s existing program, you are eligible for the federal benefit.
If you qualify under any of these categories, go to whitehouse.gov/getinternet/ to claim the benefit. There, you will find a claim form that asks how you qualify. If it is by income, it will ask for the size of your household, state you reside and total annual household income. With that criteria, the form will calculate your income cap and ask if you fall at or below it.
If you qualify because you or a household member receives government assistance, the form will ask which program. Once you qualify, the website will ask you to create a username and password for your National Verifier Account. The account is used for the Lifeline phone benefit and the new internet benefit. Once you create your account, you can sign in and apply for one or both of the programs.
Step 2: Apply for the benefit.
To apply, you will need to provide your full legal name, date of birth, address and one of the following:
Social Security number
Tribal ID number
Driver’s license, military ID, passport, taxpayer identification number or other government identification. If you use any of these for identification, be sure to have a scanned copy or picture of the identification ready to upload.
The final application question is whether it is you or your dependent who qualifies.
If you apply online, you usually get an immediate response and can proceed to the next step. If your eligibility cannot be immediately confirmed, the site will request additional documentation and provide instructions for how to submit it.
Step 3: Sign up with an internet company
Once you qualify, you have three months to contact a local ISP and sign up. Most providers will offer an online application where you sign into your account and check a box to apply. Some will even help you apply for ACP through their application process. Once eligibility is confirmed, the discount will be applied.
If you do not claim your benefit within the three months, you may reapply for the benefit.
Internet providers have to meet program criteria to offer the benefit. A list of qualifying providers is available online. The program also offers a searchable database. If you do not have online access, contact your local ISP and ask if they are participating.