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Hopes for ACP Renewal Fade as Senate Cancels Vote. These Alternatives Remain

Hopes for ACP Renewal Fade as Senate Cancels Vote. These Alternatives Remain
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Hopes for ACP Renewal Fade as Senate Cancels Vote. These Alternatives Remain  CNET

Hopes for ACP Renewal Fade as Senate Cancels Vote. These Alternatives Remain

Advocates for the Affordable Connectivity Program face setback as Senate cancels funding bill markup session

The Senate has canceled a planned markup session on a bill that would have provided $7 billion in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP, which expired in May, offered a $30 to $75 monthly discount on internet for low-income households. The cancellation of the markup session is a significant blow to advocates of the program.

Throughout the year, several bills have been proposed in Congress to extend the ACP, but none have been brought to a vote. The most promising route for an extension was thought to be through the Spectrum and National Security Act, which was scheduled for a markup session on June 18 but has been canceled for the fourth time. This cancellation is particularly notable as previous sessions were characterized as “postponed,” whereas Tuesday’s session was officially canceled.

Despite the setback, Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the sponsor of the bill, remains determined to push for its passage. She stated that she is “not giving up” on the bill, even though a new markup date has not been scheduled.

The ACP has been crucial for many low-income households, including military families, older Americans, African Americans, and Latinos. Nearly half of ACP subscribers have been military families, according to a White House fact sheet. The program has provided affordable high-speed internet to 23 million households nationwide.

One ACP user, Kenneth Sigler, a small-business owner from Hernando, Mississippi, highlighted the importance of the program in his life. He stated that it has helped him avoid having to choose between essential expenses like housing, food, and internet access.

Lifeline

Lifeline is a federal subsidy program that provides $9.25 per month to low-income households for home internet or cellphone plans. The eligibility requirements for Lifeline are slightly stricter than those of the ACP. To qualify, your income must be 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which is $40,500 for a family of four.

Lifeline income requirements

  1. Household size
    • 48 contiguous states, DC and territories: $19,683
    • Alaska: $24,584
    • Hawaii: $22,640
  2. 2:
    • 48 contiguous states, DC and territories: $26,622
    • Alaska: $33,264
    • Hawaii: $30,618
  3. 3:
    • 48 contiguous states, DC and territories: $33,561
    • Alaska: $41,945
    • Hawaii: $38,597
  4. 4:
    • 48 contiguous states, DC and territories: $40,500
    • Alaska: $50,625
    • Hawaii: $46,575
  5. 5:
    • 48 contiguous states, DC and territories: $47,439
    • Alaska: $59,306
    • Hawaii: $54,554

You can also qualify for Lifeline if you or someone who lives with you participates in any of the following programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

If you live in California, Oregon, or Texas, you must check with your internet provider or visit your state’s website to apply for the Lifeline program.

State and local resources

Several states and cities across the country offer their own local versions of the ACP to assist low-income households in paying for internet. California, for example, has a website that allows users to search for affordable options based on their ZIP code and eligibility criteria. Oregon provides an enhanced Lifeline benefit of $19.25 per month.

Cities like Chicago offer free internet to families in public schools and eligible city colleges through programs like Chicago Connected. To find these resources, individuals can search for “[location] internet resources” on Google.

Additionally, it is worth exploring how states are utilizing the $2.75 billion allocated in the Digital Equity Act to address the digital divide.

Low-income programs from internet providers

Many internet providers offer their own discounted plans for low-income households. AT&T, Spectrum, and Xfinity are among the providers that have such programs. The requirements for these programs are usually similar to those of the ACP, with income requirements or participation in federal programs like SNAP or the National School Lunch Program.

Internet provider discounts

To determine which providers are available in your area, you can use the Federal Communication Commission’s broadband map.

Nonprofit organizations

Several nonprofits across the country aim to close the digital divide by providing assistance with monthly internet costs or devices that connect individuals to the internet. These organizations have received nonprofit status from the IRS and have been vetted by watchdogs like Charity Navigator and Guidestar.org:

  • Connect All: Part of the InterConnection nonprofit, Connect All provides refurbished computers to low-income users. Eligibility requirements are similar to those of the ACP, with participation in federal programs automatically qualifying individuals for devices.
  • EveryoneOn: EveryoneOn offers a wide range of internet resources. Their locator tool helps users find low-cost plans and computers in their area, enroll in digital skills courses, and discover local events that distribute devices.
  • Human-I-T: This nonprofit accepts donations from corporations, refurbishes the devices, and sells them at a discount to qualifying groups, including veterans, low-income households, and seniors. They also offer low-cost internet through mobile hotspot devices.
  • Internet for All Now: An initiative of the nonprofit California Emerging Technology Fund, Internet for All Now helps Californians find low-cost plans in their area. The website provides resources that can be used by anyone in the country.
  • National Digital Inclusion Alliance: The NDIA is a well-known hub for research and policy related to closing the digital divide. While they do not offer low-cost internet themselves, they provide valuable resources for navigating available options.

Explore other internet plans in your area

If your bill is increasing significantly with the end of the ACP, consider searching for other internet providers in your area. Most ISPs offer plans under $50 per month, and additional discounts can often be found for bundling with a cellphone plan or signing an annual contract.

Purchasing your own equipment, such as a modem and router, can also save you money each month. Renting equipment from your internet provider typically costs around $15 per month, while buying your own can be as little as $100, especially if you opt for refurbished equipment. Ensure that your modem is compatible with your provider before making a purchase.

More broadband news on CNET

For further information and news about broadband, visit CNET.

Source: cnet.com

 

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