The federal government has recently made several announcements about its plans to provide affordable broadband access to communities.
The FCC has launched a new program designed to provide mobile broadband access to low-income consumers in the United States. The ACP, referred to as the “Affordable Connectivity Program,” is being administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (“USAC”), which manages programs under the universal service umbrella.
1. What Is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The ACP is a universal service program designed to provide mobile broadband access to low-income consumers in the United States.
The program provides subsidies for mobile voice and data services and devices that provide internet connectivity (e.g., smartphones and tablets).
The grants are available to individuals who receive benefits from selected programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid.
The program aims to be flexible, allowing for consumers who receive benefits from multiple programs to use their combined benefit amounts on one or more mobile providers’ services.
For example, suppose a qualifying consumer receives SNAP benefits and Medicaid. In that case, the consumer can use their combined SNAP + Medicaid benefit amount for mobile broadband service from one or more different mobile providers.
2. What Is the Process for Subsidizing Service Under This Program?
Although eligibility requirements vary depending on which benefits a consumer receives, generally, a qualifying consumer must apply for benefits through the program provider in their state of residence.
Once the consumer’s eligibility requirements are verified, they can receive service under this program.
3. Who Is Eligible to Receive Subsidies Under This Program?
Generally, consumers are eligible if they receive benefits from selected programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid.
The program does not impose upper-income limits on eligibility requirements. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides opportunities for consumers who are currently not connected to the internet to obtain mobile broadband access.
Each qualifying consumer is limited to receiving a total of $30 per month in subsidized service (i.e., $10 per month for each of three major categories: (1) voice and data; (2) data only; and (3) voice only).
4. What Are the Benefits of This FCC Program?
The benefits of this particular subsidy are straightforward. It provides consumers who might not otherwise have access to broadband internet service with eligibility for affordable mobile broadband services, including smartphones and data plans and cellular devices that provide connectivity (e.g., tablets, hotspots, etc.).
This program also provides expanded opportunities for eligible consumers to access digital tools and resources relevant to their daily lives.
5. Is There a Way for Consumers Who Receive Benefits Under the Affordable Connectivity Program to Get Additional Subsidies?
The FCC has launched another program designed to provide further subsidies for broadband services.
The new Connect America Fund (CAF) will be available for use by eligible telecommunications carriers who receive CAF support to provide broadband of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds to consumers in rural, high-cost areas of the country.
6. What Other Mobile Broadband Subsidy Programs Exist?
The FCC has also announced that it is considering other broadband subsidy programs, including supporting broadband services for schools and libraries. However, at this point, the Affordable Connectivity Program is the only one.
The FCC has also announced setting aside sufficient funding to support wireless telecommunications carriers that bring 4G LTE mobile broadband services to rural America.
The Affordable Access Program started in the US and aimed to benefit lower-income households from select programs with mobile data plans. This program has been one of many solutions set forth by the FCC to help connect people living in areas without access to broadband internet. The connection of people living in these areas is essential to help them with daily tasks and future research and opportunities.