TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber, Spectrum and dozens of other internet providers are teaming up with the Federal Communications Commission to give poor Americans cheaper internet access.
In Florida, that means more than 60 companies will provide broadband internet to households making at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. That means, for example, individuals making $13,590 or less or a family of four earning $27,750, getting connected will be cheaper, or free. As family sizes go up, the federal government adds $4,720 per person when calculating poverty in the mainland U.S.
The internet access is paid for through an FCC benefit called the Affordable Connectivity Program. It’s made to help “ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.” Through ACP, those in poverty can get a discount of $30 per month for their internet service, or up to $75 per month for households that live on qualifying Tribal Lands.
The program started on Dec. 31, 2021.
Some households can also get a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from one of the participating companies, so long as they contribute between $10 and $50 for purchase.
Depending on the internet service provider used, the discount from the ACP could make internet service free for low-income households. For those using AT&T, the $30 discount makes their $30 Access AT&T program give you free internet, according to a release by the company on Monday.
“Making home internet affordable for low-income households is an important step toward closing the digital divide. The new Access from AT&T plan provides improved speeds, no data cap and works in concert with the federal ACP benefit,” said Cheryl Choy, SVP- Broadband Management & Strategy in a statement. “Free internet service can be the difference in getting homework done, being able to apply for a job, or receiving medical care.”
Participants for assistance benefits like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Medicaid, who receive Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or Lifeline are all eligible. Those in Tribal programs like the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations also qualify.
Families who have students receiving free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast programs from the United States Department of Agriculture or those who received a Pell Grant for college tuition are also eligible for the broadband benefit.
Addressing internet access as the modern job market requires connection more than ever before has made broadband a focus of both federal and state-level policy. In Florida, internet is important enough for the state House to approve half of $1 billion for getting connectivity to rural Floridians. The bills by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-Polk City) were passed unanimously in their first committee hearing.
Both pieces of legislation, House Bills 1543 and 1545 would create a trust fund to use for funding service expansion across Florida and replace or build infrastructure to expand broadband across the state.
From the bills, $400 million would be appropriated from federal infrastructure and pandemic relief funds used by Florida’s Broadband Opportunity Program. An extra $100 million would be sourced from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, using federal dollars. Senate versions of the bills are sponsored by Jim Boyd (R-Manatee).
To check your eligibility for the Affordable Connectivity Program and apply for the benefit, you can apply online with the ACP or send in a print application. Then, contact your preferred internet service provider to get the discount(s) applied to your monthly bill.