Posted on February 16, 2024

Free Internet Service for SSI Recipients

Internet service for SSI recipients has become indispensable for managing daily activities as numerous essential services have moved online. Whether you’re trying to access banking services or book a medical appointment, you’ll most likely be expected to do it online. Unfortunately, many Internet services are expensive. That’s why there’s a new program offering free internet service for SSI recipients.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was created by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure finances are not a barrier to getting online. It’s an extension of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, effectively making that short-term benefit a more permanent measure, and it went into effect in December 2021.

More than 10 million households are already enrolled in the program, helping those people access health services, complete their education, and access the wealth of other online resources.

Under the ACP, eligible households can receive $30 per month towards the cost of their internet service. Eligible households on qualifying Tribal lands can receive $75 per month. Through the ACP subsidies, providers can now offer free internet for low-income or disabled individuals who participate in qualifying benefits.

The Benefits of Internet Service for SSI Recipients

Access to the Internet can significantly close the digital divide for recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by opening doors to essential services and opportunities many of us take for granted. Here’s how low-cost internet for the disabled, seniors, and income-qualified people can make a significant difference:

 

Better Healthcare Accessibility

For individuals receiving SSI, the Internet provides vital access to telehealth services, allowing them to consult with healthcare professionals from their homes. This especially benefits those with mobility issues or living in remote areas. Online platforms enable easy appointment scheduling, access to medical records, and the ability to receive health advice without traveling, making internet for the disabled and elderly individuals a key component of modern healthcare.

 

Education and Learning Opportunities

The internet is a treasure trove of educational resources, offering many learning opportunities. The Internet for people on disability opens up access to online courses, educational videos, and digital libraries, enabling them to continue their education, learn new skills, and even pursue degrees or certifications online. This can be particularly empowering for those looking to enhance their qualifications for better employment prospects, highlighting the importance of the benefits of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

 

Easier Ways to Connect with Friends and Loved Ones

Online access is a crucial tool for staying connected with friends and family. Social media platforms, video calls, and instant messaging apps make it possible to maintain relationships and share important moments, regardless of physical distance. Discounted internet for disabled, elderly, and people receiving SSI benefits means enjoying social interactions and support networks that might otherwise be inaccessible, emphasizing the value of service for eligible households.

 

Enhanced Access to Government and Social Services

The Internet provides streamlined access to various federal assistance programs related to SSI benefits, housing assistance, and food programs. Online portals allow for easy application, status checks, and updates on benefits, making it simpler for recipients to manage their assistance programs and stay informed about any changes or additional support they may be eligible for. The ACP further facilitates this access by offering connected device discounts and internet discounts for disabled individuals, ensuring that these vital services remain within reach.

 

Who is Eligible for the ACP?

 

The Affordable Connectivity Program, a government program designed to provide affordable broadband and phone service. This includes services such as wifi for disabled, elderly, and income qualifying individuals such as those who receive Supplemental Security Income, making internet service for SSI recipients more accessible. In addition to SSI, those who are on certain other programs may be eligible, including:

  • Lifeline
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Certain Tribal assistance programs

It’s important to note that the ACP’s support is not considered income or a resource when calculating SSI payments, preserving the financial integrity of internet service for SSI recipients.

If you aren’t enrolled in any of those programs and don’t receive SSI, it may still be worth applying for the program if your household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.

The ACP does have some limits. It’s offered on a per-household basis. If two people who would qualify individually live in the same household, they can still claim only one discounted device and one monthly service discount.

The ACP discount is awarded on an annual basis. Each year, USAC checks to confirm whether the household is still eligible for ACP. In most cases, eligibility checks are automated, and the discount recipient does not need to do anything. However, if USAC or the internet service provider requires more information, they’ll send a letter to the household asking them to get in touch to confirm eligibility. Responding to any letters promptly is vital to ensure the discount is not revoked.

What You’ll Need to Apply

To apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and receive free internet for low-income disabled individuals or discounted phone service, you will need to prepare the following documents to meet the eligibility criteria:

 

  • Proof of Income: A current annual income statement or your previous year’s tax return can indicate that your household income falls at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This is especially relevant for low-income households seeking to take advantage of these benefits.
  • Proof of Program Participation: If you’re applying based on your participation in a qualifying program like SSI, you’ll need a benefit award letter or statement as proof.
  • Proof of Identity: A government-issued ID card, driver’s license, or passport can be proof of identity.
  • Social Security Card: This is essential for verifying your Social Security number, which is critical for those applying for Social Security disability discounts.
  • Proof of Address: A utility bill, lease agreement, or similar document can prove your current residence.

 

How to Apply

Applying for the ACP is straightforward. Here are the steps you should follow based on guidance from the Assist Wireless website:

 

  1. Visit the ACP Website: Start by visiting the official Affordable Connectivity Program website. You can find detailed information about the government program and its benefits here.
  2. Complete the Application Form: Start your journey to connectivity by filling out the application form on the ACP website. Assist Wireless offers an online enrollment option for a more tailored experience, especially if you want to combine Lifeline benefits with the ACP. Visit our website, select a Lifeline + ACP plan, and if you qualify, enjoy a complimentary monthly plan alongside a free smartphone delivered straight to your doorstep.
  3. Select a Participating Provider: After your application is confirmed, use the ACP’s provider search tool or directly opt for Assist Wireless to take full advantage of their Lifeline + ACP offerings. Assist Wireless provides a straightforward online process for selecting a plan that suits your needs, ensuring you get the most out of your internet service.
  4. Contact the Provider and Choose Your Plan: Assist Wireless will help finalize your plan selection. You’ll be guided through a user-friendly online process that includes submitting personal information, choosing your plan, and receiving confirmation. This step might involve an additional application process to apply the ACP discount to your bill, but Assist Wireless simplifies this with clear instructions and support.
  5. Submit Required Documentation: Verify your eligibility for the ACP discount by providing necessary documents such as proof of income or participation in qualifying programs like SNAP/Food Stamps, Medicaid, or other government assistance programs. Assist Wireless makes this step easy with prompts during the online application process.
  6. Enjoy Your Internet and Phone Service: After completing the application and submitting the documentation, you’ll be ready to enjoy your discounted or complimentary data service once Assist Wireless confirms your eligibility. Eligible customers will receive a free smartphone with Assist Wireless, enhancing their connectivity experience.

 

Additional Support For Getting Online

In addition to these discounts, eligible households can also receive help with purchasing a device that can be used to get online. The program offers a one-time discount of up to $100 towards the cost of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. To qualify for the discount, the recipient must contribute between $10 and $50 towards the purchase price. 

The FCC has taken other steps to help ACP participants get online more easily. Companies are not allowed to prevent customers from joining the program because of a past-due balance or prior debt. They’re also not allowed to refuse customers because of their credit score.

In addition, companies cannot force an ACP customer to choose a more expensive or inferior plan to receive the ACP discount. ACP participants can switch providers or change plans without being liable for early termination fees. If they’re unhappy with their service, there’s a dedicated FCC complaints process they can follow.

Joining the program is a two-step process. Firstly, someone in the household must visit the Affordable Connectivity Program website and either fill out the application form online or download it to print and submit it by mail.

Next, they must find a participating provider, choose a qualifying plan, and have the ACP discount applied to their bill. Many providers have a separate application process for ACP customers, so even if a household plans to stay with their existing provider, they must contact the billing department to confirm they’re on an eligible plan and arrange for the discount to be applied.

Finding an ACP Provider

Not all providers offer low-cost programs or devices aimed at ACP participants. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) provides a search tool to help people find companies offering free internet for disabled and low-income individuals under the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The search tool allows users to search by their ZIP code or city and state and to look up companies offering home internet, mobile internet, and discounted devices. If a company offers a plan that costs $0 with ACP, this is highlighted in the results table! To learn more about ACP visit https://www.assistwireless.com/about-acp/.

Lifeline Program

Due to sharing many of the same eligibility requirements those currently enrolled in the lifeline program may qualify for The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) also.

Medicaid / Medi-Cal

Program Approval Letter, Benefit Statement, or Verification of Coverage Letter, should contain the following basic information:

  • Name of the program or state equivalent,
  • Name of the beneficiary,
  • Address of the beneficiary, and
  • Date of the award

OR

Eligibility Screenshot or printout from an online portal or website tool, should contain the following basic information:

  • Name of the program or state equivalent,
  • Name of the beneficiary
  • Medical Identification number, OR
  • Case number,
  • Eligibility dates, OR
  • Current participation status

Federal Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans & Survivors Pension Benefit

Pension Grant Letter, should contain the following basic information:

  • Participant’s name
  • Address
  • A decision about the participant’s monthly entitlement amount
  • Payment start date

Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)

FPHA award letter, should contain the following basic information:

  • Name of the program,
  • Date of the award,
  • Name of the beneficiary, and
  • Award amount.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Approval Letter or Benefit Statement issued by the SSA, or on SSA letterhead.

  • Consumer’s name
  • Date
  • Eligibility Date
  • Claim number OR Other consumer identification number
  • Payment amount

SNAP / Food Stamps / CalFresh

Program Approval Letter, Benefit Statement, or Verification of Coverage Letter, should contain the following basic information:

  • Name of the program,
  • Name of the beneficiary,
  • Eligibility dates, OR
  • Current participation status

OR

Eligibility Screenshot or printout from an online portal or website tool, should contain the following basic information:

  • Name of the program or state equivalent,
  • Name of the beneficiary,
  • Case number,
  • Eligibility dates, OR
  • Current participation status