Updated: Jun 16
Technology has transitioned from a luxury to a necessity in everyone’s daily lives. Through years of work distributing technology to the LGBTQ+ community, PowerOn has seen how being connected is vital to our current society. From schoolwork to job searching to access to medical resources, connectivity depends not only on access to technological devices, but also access to high-speed, reliable internet connection. Even though internet connectivity is important as it is, it is still not financially accessible to everyone, especially to disadvantaged and historically underserved communities like the LGBTQ+ community, especially those living in rural or low-income areas.
So, how can you help your clients have accessible internet services?
The FCC has a benefits program named Affordable Connectivity Program that can help reduce the monthly cost of internet service to eligible households by $30 or $75 if on qualifying Tribal lands. According to NerdWallet the average cost of internet services per household in 2022 ranged between $36 - $58 a month, depending on the speed. This discount can not only minimize internet bills, but it could essentially make it free to access reliable internet services for your clients. They also offer a one-time discount of $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop, or tablet if the client contributes between $10 - $50 to the total purchase, in order to be able to access their internet service.
Who qualifies to the Affordable Connectivity Program?
A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income internet program;
Participates in one of these assistance programs:
Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, including at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision schools.
Federal Housing Assistance, including:
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program (Section 8 Vouchers)
Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA)/Section 202/ Section 811
Affordable Housing Programs for American Indians, Alaska Natives or Native Hawaiians
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
Participates in one of these assistance programs and lives on Qualifying Tribal lands:
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
Tribal Head Start (income based)
You may have to show proof of participation, like a benefit letter or official document, when you apply for the ACP.
The Affordable Connectivity Program also comes with protections for your clients:
Clients can choose the service plan that best meets their needs (including a plan they may already be on);
Clients have access to supported broadband services regardless of their credit status;
Providers are prohibited from excluding clients with past due balances or prior debt from enrolling in the program;
Preventing clients from being forced into more expensive or lower quality plans in order to receive the ACP;
Ensuring that clients are not liable for early termination fees;
Reducing the potential for bill shock or other financial harms;
Allowing ACP recipients to switch providers or broadband service offerings; and
Providing a dedicated FCC process for ACP complaints.
How your clients can enroll and tips for the application process
To enroll, clients will need to both apply for the program and contact their provider to select a service plan. Clients can apply online or submit a mail-in application: both can be found at GetInternet.gov. If internet access is limited, the client may also call 1 (877) 384-2575 to have the application mailed to them. This number can also be called while filling out the application for help.
The program needs participants to recertify eligibility every year, you can learn more about this here.
If your client lives on qualifying Tribal lands, remember to click the ‘Confirm Tribal Qualification’ button on the online application, or check the ‘Tribal Lands’ box if filling out the paper application.
If your client does not have or know their street address, the online application has a pin-drop system. You can also provide an address description. If submitting the paper version, clients can send a map that clearly shows their physical address or location, including latitude and longitude coordinates (coordinates are required if they live on Tribal lands).
Check the program’s definition of a household here, as multiple households could reside at the same address.
When applying for the program, clients might need to provide additional information or documentation if they cannot confirm your eligibility, identity, or address. If that information is required, you can find that information here.
Instructions for the application can be found in 9 different languages.