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The COVID pandemic put a significant demand on broadband internet almost overnight. More and more people began working from home, attending classes online, and streaming entertainment in the comfort of their homes.
With the increased demand for broadband internet came swift revelation about the state of the digital divide – a rift between people and access to high-speed internet due to their physical location or financial constraints.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) responded to the demand and the divide with the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB). Through the EBB, recipients could receive a $50-per-month discount on their broadband internet bill. However, the EBB was designed to be a temporary solution and expired at the end of 2021.
Enter the Affordable Connectivity Program.
As the Emergency Broadband Benefit expired, accessibility and affordability were ongoing challenges for millions of Americans. The new longer-term solution, called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), was instituted as a replacement. The ACP, which falls under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, adopted much of the EBB scope, but changed subsidies and established future goals for broadband in the United States.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Some 30 million people in the US do not have access to broadband-based on location and income alone. In a federal “Internet for All” initiative, the $45 billion Affordable Connectivity Program “helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare, and more.” Those who qualify receive a $30-per-month subsidy to be used for a new or existing broadband internet plan that suits the individual’s or household’s needs.
In addition to the monthly broadband internet subsidy, recipients are also eligible for a one-time benefit to assist in the purchase price of a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
Who is Eligible?
Broadly, anyone whose annual household income is at or 200% below the Federal Poverty Guidelines can qualify for the ACP benefit. There are, however, other criteria that may affect eligibility. Visit the Affordable Connectivity Program page on the FCC’s website for eligibility requirements. Consumers can also begin the ACP application process at the getinternet.gov website.
If you qualify for the benefit, be sure to check with your existing or prospective provider to ensure that it participates in the program. The FCC maintains a live document where consumers can what providers in their state are participating in the program.
Currently, about 20 internet providers nationwide have committed to either lowering prices, increasing speeds, or providing high speed internet plans of at least 100 Mbps for $30 per month. This means that in some areas, with participating providers, eligible consumers could get access to broadband internet for free.
Where to Get Cheap Internet
As mentioned, many providers are lowering prices to offer affordable, high-speed internet access. Below are three top providers that all offer fast internet plans starting at under $50 per month.
- Same-day installations
- 8+ million free WiFi hotspots
- Unlimited data available
Xfinity is a cable internet provider that offers speeds ranging from 50 Mbps to 3,000 Mbps. In addition, Xfinity also provides millions of free nationwide WiFi hotspots so you can stay connected even when you’re away from home.
- Fiber & DSL provider
- WiFi router included
- Unlimited data included
Known for its fiber internet, Frontier is quickly expanding its fiber footprint and offers symmetrical speeds to more than half of its service area today. Frontier doesn’t require contracts, impose data limits, or hike prices annually. What you sign up for is what you pay – no more, no less.
Kinetic by Windstream
- Unlimited data
- Rural availability
- Free installations
Kinetic by Windstream has starting plans with speeds up to 200 Mbps in select areas. This is more than sufficient to not only handle general browsing, but work video conferencing, gaming, and streaming. Enter your zip code above to see if it’s available near you.
The ACP is a well-funded, long-term solution with a goal of getting every US household access to high-speed internet by the end of the decade. For those who qualify, the monthly subsidy is here to stay for the foreseeable future. And, accessibility to broadband will increase over the next few years, as providers can be approved for federal funds to expand their networks. This is primarily for rural areas that have limited access to high-speed internet.
To find the best internet options near you, use our zip search tool below for fast results.
Enter your zip code to see providers near you
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