Is your family in need of free or affordable internet? If so, you may ask, “How do I qualify for free internet?” Depending on your financial status, you may be among many Americans qualifying for less expensive or free internet for low-income families. A federal initiative passed by Congress provides a program for broadband assistance to help millions of families. Approximately 40% of American families (48 million) are eligible for the program, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Many factors play a role in determining who qualifies for internet subsidies. Many people can receive access to the Internet and data through Lifeline and ACP support from various providers, so it’s a good idea to apply and find out if you may be among the eligible households that the public internet accessibility plan is designed for.
Why Cheaper Internet for Low-Income Americans Matter
More than thirty years after the internet debuted, smartphone and broadband ownership is increasing for all Americans, including low-income families. The need for digital access between lower and higher incomes is the same, although roughly one-quarter of adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year do not own a smartphone, laptop or desktop computer. Furthermore, according to a survey, four in ten lower-income adults still need to own a laptop or desktop computer. Households with a higher income are more likely to have multiple devices, gaining them an advantage in using online services. With fewer options, low-income families rely solely on their smartphones for internet access. That’s why the monthly high-speed internet subsidy is so important. It can be expensive to buy internet services. Especially when buying devices that are new, requiring low-cost broadband access to address the issue and provide low-income families with the ability to stay connected.
How Can Low-Income Families Get Free Internet?
Benefits through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can help. Once enrolled, you can receive a monthly discount of up to $30 or $75 if you live on Tribal lands. The program also allows a one-time discount from a participating provider for a desktop computer, laptop or tablet. The discount is a value of $100 after a copay of $10-$50. More than 13.4 million households have enrolled in the program since it became effective. Some families currently enrolled were already participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), the program initiated during the pandemic.
Why Does the Program Exist?
Created through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in November 2022, the ACP program is a permanent replacement for the EBB program. Participants already participating in the temporary initiative were transferred to the new program. It was clear that the expense of high-speed internet was only attainable for some households. The new program is designed to reach a more significant number of Americans and expands the parameters for eligibility, and who qualifies for internet subsidies. The slight benefit difference between the emergency program and the current one is the monthly discount of $50 to now $30.
How Do You Qualify for Free Internet?
There are several ways to qualify for the internet subsidy for low-income families subsidies. Depending on your household size, you will meet the eligibility standard if your gross income is at or less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Your gross income should include all sources of your income, with exceptions such as a life insurance contract or death benefit. If you have income from these sources, they will need to be excluded by the IRS. Other ways to qualify are through enrollment in a government assistance program or if you received a federal Pell Grant for the current school year.
Who is Eligible for Free Internet?
If you are currently receiving help from a government assistance program, you will automatically qualify to receive the high-speed internet subsidy subsidies. Some social service programs include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Social Security Income (SSI)
- Free or reduced-cost school meal programs
These are just a few eligible assistance programs. Visit the FCC website for a complete list of ways you can qualify, which is a complete guide to who qualifies for internet subsidies. If you are already receiving assistance, depending on your state or territory, verification is automatic through the National Verifier (NV). The NV is a centralized application system that verifies eligibility through a database with your information and documentation proof to help streamline the process.
How Cheaper Internet for Low-income Americans Affects You
Access to internet service plays a significant role in every American’s life, and you are no exception. Most of the time, interactions with work, school and other services occur online. If your income is lower than the standard, it should not be a barrier to connecting with the digital world. Reducing or eliminating the cost of internet access will allow the advantages of connecting with who and what is important to you.
Get Assistance and Start Connecting Today
Are you unable to access or need a digital device or smartphone with cheaper internet? You can get a free or low-cost device without worrying about the expense. Assistance is available if you or your household qualify for the existing programs. Contact Assist Wireless today for more details.