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Free or low-cost internet? Here’s who qualifies and how to get it

Depending on where you live, you might not have many internet access options. That can leave you with a more expensive package than you budgeted for or insufficient speeds. However, things are slowly changing as some cable companies are offering free internet services.

There is a new program that offers free or low-cost internet service. It is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that includes the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). It aims to reduce the cost of internet access for millions of Americans by up to $30 per month.

Read on to see how this program works and if you qualify.

Here’s the backstory

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government benefit program that helps eligible low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices. When ACP was introduced in May this year, President Biden explained that 20 internet companies had already committed to the program.

Qualifying households can get up to $30 each month to help pay for internet service.

According to Aging Connected, as much as 20% of Americans don’t have access to broadband internet, made worse during the pandemic as many found themselves furloughed.

Without the internet, affected people couldn’t find new jobs. The campaign, a collaboration between Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP and the Humana Foundation, explains that senior citizens are the hardest hit, it said in a blog post.

The campaign has now set up a website where senior citizens can quickly check if they qualify for reduced internet under ACP. It’s a helpful resource that guides potential applicants through the process.

What you can do about it

To benefit from ACP, one member of the household must meet any of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP or Medicaid.
  • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program.
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
  • Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance.

You also qualify if you meet the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income internet program.

If you meet the criteria, go to Aging Connected’s ACP portal and click on the Find a Participating Provider Near You button. On the next screen, you can select an internet service provider, search by state or filter results based on service type.

For example, if you select Arizona and hit the Search button, the page displays an extensive list of internet providers. It includes the various connection types they offer and how to contact them.

You might also qualify for a package that includes a device. In that case, you should look for providers that state “Yes” in the Offering Connected Devices column.

You can contact the service provider directly or visit the Affordable Connectivity Program website for more information and to sign up. Here is a complete list of participating internet service providers.

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