Access to information and technology is a fundamental human right. Free devices and phone services access can help make this right a reality for all. Thanks to the government assistance programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Eligible underserved individuals and families can get a free device with cell phone services through the ACP. When it comes to ACP, a question that comes up repeatedly is how long will the affordable connectivity program last.
If the government doesn’t take the necessary initiative to sustain a program, it may run out of funding. So, is the time ticking away on the Affordable Connectivity Program?
This article will explain everything to understand the ACP program and its duration. Besides, a few frequently asked questions about the ACP program will be answered below. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The Affordable Connectivity Program is a Federal Communications Commission benefit program. Congress established it in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
Initially, the program was created with an initial funding allocation of $14.2 billion. It is funded through the Internet for All Initiative. Moreover, the funds have been allocated for five years.
One thing to note: the ACP replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB) on December 31, 2021. The household enrolled in the EBB program then continues to receive EBB monthly benefits until January 3, 2022.
The government initiated the ACP to help low-income households access affordable, high-speed broadband internet. It ensures everyone can access internet services and technology.
Millions of households in America are currently connected to the internet through the ACP. These households together save more than $500 million monthly on internet expenses.
What Does The ACP Offer?
The ACP provides subsidies of $30/month to eligible households and $75/month to qualifying households on Tribal lands. So, eligible individuals and families can afford internet plans.
They also provide a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop, or tablet purchased through a participating provider. Until October 2023, more than 21 million households have signed up for the program.
ACP allows recipients to choose a broadband plan regardless of credit status or previous debt with a provider. You will receive the ACP benefit for as long as you qualify for the program.
How Long Will Affordable Connectivity Program Last?
The Affordable Connectivity is a long-term program funded with 14.2 billion for five years. That being said, the ACP will run out of funding in the first half of 2024 if no action is taken by the end of 2023.
This will initiate the process for the FCC and program stakeholders to terminate the program. If it happens, no people will be able to afford internet services like before. The ACP recipients either have to disconnect their services or face excessive prices.
A large number of policy leaders and stakeholders are calling on Congress to act to advance this program. At the summer meeting in July, the NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) adopted a resolution.
They urge Congress to allocate consistent annual funding for the ACP. They highlighted various compelling reasons why it would be beneficial from a policy perspective to take this action.
Likewise, the annual gathering of the US Conference of Mayors resulted in adopting a resolution in June. The resolution calls on Congress to renew and expand funding for the ACP.
Moreover, over 200 organizations have signed a letter that supports continued funding. Each letter specifies the number of households in each state participating in the program. It explains how the program helps reduce deployment costs.
Extension of the fund for ACP’s broadband benefit for five more years could cost an estimated $30-$35 billion. Overall, the duration of the ACP depends on government policy, availability of funds, budget allocations, etc.
Factors Influence the Duration of the Affordable Connectivity Program
Several factors influence the duration of the ACP program. A lot of factors can change the effectiveness and sustainability of the program. Here are some factors that commonly influence the duration of ACP:
1. Government’s Commitment to Digital Inclusion
The first thing that affects the longevity of the ACP is how committed the government is to tackling digital inequality. If the government takes long-term initiative to address digital inequity, the program will last for longer.
2. Legislation and Authorization
The legal framework establishing the program includes provisions specifying the duration of the program. Legislation or authorizing laws may set time limits for the program’s existence.
3. Funding Availability
The availability of funds is a significant factor. The program may be designed to operate for a specific duration based on the allocated budget. If funding is limited, the program’s duration might be shorter.
4. Resource Availability
The availability of resources, such as iPhones, iPads, tablets, laptops, etc., can influence the duration of the program. Technological progress and market fluctuations may affect the possibility of delivering these devices over time.
5. Technology Changes
Advances in technology can impact the relevance and duration of connectivity programs. As technology evolves, programs may need to adapt, which could influence the program’s lifespan.
6. User Adoption and Impact Evaluation
Program success is often measured by its impact on the lives of recipients. The ACP is no exception. If it brings positive changes in the beneficiaries’ life, there is more likely to extend the program.
7. Collaboration and Partnerships
The longer the nonprofit organizations and stakeholders collaborate with the program, the longer it lasts. Moreover, the government can leverage extra resources by forming partnerships. Thus, it can extend the program’s duration.
8. Program Success and Evaluation
The program’s success, as determined by assessment and evaluation, may affect its duration. If the program achieves its goals, there may be efforts to extend its duration.
9. Changing Economic Conditions
Changes in economic conditions and budget considerations can influence program duration. Economic challenges or budget limitations may lead to a shorter duration. Conversely, economic growth might support longer-term commitments.
10. Competing Market Dynamics
Competing market dynamics can affect the ISP and mobile carrier’s offerings and pricing. This influences the availability and affordability of Internet services. Ultimately, it affects the longevity of the ACP.
How Does the ACP Benefit Low-income Households?
The Affordable Connectivity Program brings several benefits to low-income individuals and families.
- Internet Access for Education: The ACP ensures that students in low-income households have access to educational materials, online classes, resources, etc.
- Job Opportunities and Economic Inclusion: ACP can empower low-income families to find jobs, apply online, and participate in online training programs. Thereby increasing economic inclusion.
- Telecommuting and Remote Work: Affordable internet access facilitates remote work opportunities. This is particularly relevant when commuting to a physical workplace might be challenging.
- Access to Government Services: ACP ensures that individuals in low-income households can access essential services, submit forms, and stay informed about government programs.
- Healthcare Access: ACP enables individuals in low-income households to access healthcare information and consult with healthcare professionals remotely.
- Social Inclusion and Communication: ACP helps combat social isolation by enabling individuals in low-income households to participate in online social activities. So they can stay connected with their communities.
- Information and Knowledge Sharing: ACP enables individuals to access information, fostering knowledge sharing and personal development.
Who is Eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The eligibility of the ACP is determined by the participant’s income and participation in the government assistance program. If you qualify for the ACP, you must confirm your eligibility through the National Verifier.
You can participate in the ACP if you qualify for the following criteria.
Criteria for Income
The gross household income of the participant must be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Each eligible household can receive only one ACP benefit. Below is an estimated household income for different household sizes.
|Gross Annual Household Income
|Each additional member
Criteria for Program Participation
You will need to participate in one of the following government assistance programs.
- SNAP/food stamps
- The National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans’ Pension and Survivors’ Benefits or Lifeline
- Federal Housing Assistance, including;
- Public Housing
- Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8 Vouchers)
- Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA)/Section 202/ Section 811
- Affordable Housing Programs for American Indians, Alaska Natives or Native Hawaiians
If you live on qualifying Tribal Lands, you must participate in one of the following programs;
- Tribal TANF
- Tribal Head Start
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
You will qualify for the ACP if a member of your household;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the existing award year
- Enrolled in a school that provides free school breakfast and lunch to all students by participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)
- Eligible for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program
How to Participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program?
There are two ways you can participate in the ACP program. , you can submit an application online by visiting AffordableConnectivity.gov. Or, you can print the ACP application and send it to the ACP.
The next after submitting the application is to contact a participating provider. So, you can choose a plan and get a discount on your bill. Some providers may be required to complete an alternative application. So, it is better to contact a participating provider.
What Documents Are Required to Enroll in the ACP Program?
A set of documents are needed to prove your eligibility for participating in the CP program. Here are common types of documents that are often requested during the enrollment process for the ACP program.
Proof of Household Income
- Federal or Tribal notice letter of participation in General Assistance
- Previous year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return
- Current income statement from the employer or paycheck stubs
- Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation statement of benefits
- Divorce decree
- Child support award
- Veterans Administration statement of benefits
Proof of Participation in Assistance Programs
- Approval letter
- Benefit verification letter
- Benefit award letter
- Statement of benefits
Proof of Identity
- Birth Certificate
- Permanent Resident Card or Green Card
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license
- A valid government, military, state, or Tribal ID
- Certificate of US Citizenship or Naturalization
Proof of Address
- Utility bill
- Mortgage or lease statement
- Most recent W-2 or tax return
- Duplicated address
Is The Duration of The ACP and Lifeline Program the Same?
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline are separate programs with different durations. The Lifeline program is a permanent program. However, the ACP is a long-term program with an uncertain end date.
The duration of the ACP program may end anytime the government runs out of funding, resources, etc. On the other hand, the Lifeline is always there with no limitation on funding.
Is the Affordable Connectivity Program legitimate?
Yes, you can rest assured that the ACP program is legitimate. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) runs the program. So, there is no chance of it being spurious. You can visit www.affordableconnectivity.gov or contact the ACP Support Center at 877.384.2575 to check the program’s authenticity.
Which ISPs Participate in the ACP Program?
Internet providers offering landline and wireless services can participate in the ACP. You can locate the internet service providers in your state or territory from here.
Is ACP a Temporary Program?
No. The ACP replaces the EBB program as a long-term program. It will last as long as the government provides funding for the ACP.
The ACP is more than just a program; it’s a promise to build a more equitable and connected future. It ensures everyone has the tools they need to thrive in the digital age. To that end, the Affordable Connectivity Program lasts a long time.