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How Do I Get Free Broadband Internet (5 Easy Steps)

Low-income American families can get free broadband internet from providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). These families must prove they qualify for the ACP and choose a service provider.

However, many families and individuals that could benefit from the program have no idea how it works. With the information supplied by this particular article, anyone should get broadband hassle-free.

How to Get Free Broadband Internet via the ACP

The Affordable Connectivity Program is one of the government assistance programs that seek to help low-income families to get accessible or affordable telecommunication services. The government launched it on December 31, 2022.

It replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which supported low-income families during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the pandemic subsided and life went back to normal, the Federal government decided to replace the EBB with the more permanent ACP.

Qualifying low-income families benefit from a $30 subsidy from the government. They can apply the subsidy to their monthly broadband Internet bill and get either free or discounted services. If you live in a Tribal area or Indian reserve, you’ll get a $75 discount.

The Universal Services Administration Company (USAC) administers the program on behalf of the Federal Communications Commission  (FCC). USAC operates the National Verifier website through which ACP applicants can check their eligibility status. It also runs the Lifeline and ACP websites where eligible users can submit the ACP application forms.

Besides the $30 or $75 subsidies, those who qualify for the ACP can get a one-time $100 discount for the purchase of a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. Providers may require a co-payment of $10 to $50.

How to Qualify for Free Broadband Internet via the ACP

Free Broadband Internet

By launching the ACP, the government expanded the income-eligibility requirements, meaning that more than 40 million Americans could get it. But the eligibility criteria for the ACP goes beyond income requirements and includes participation on government assistance programs

You may qualify for the ACP in any of the following ways:

1. Lifeline Beneficiaries

If your family has been getting free or subsidized phone and Internet services from Lifeline, you don’t have to apply for the ACP. Instead, you get admitted into the program automatically. You can then take advantage of the Lifeline and ACP subsidies.

The Lifeline program offers a $9.25 broadband Internet subsidy. On Tribal Lands, the subsidy is $34.25. If you combine with the $30 (or $75 on Tribal Lands), you can get plans with higher Internet speeds.

2. Benefit from a Lifeline-Eligible Program

The Federal government has several assistance programs that act as qualification criteria for the Lifeline program. Some beneficiaries of these programs do not necessarily get the Lifeline discount. USAC allows these families to apply for free broadband internet through the ACP.

Lifeline-eligible programs provide supplemental income, free medical services, supplemental nutrition, and support on monthly rent. Beneficiaries can be parents, children, or senior citizens. However, some of the programs benefit entire households.

Here are some of the Lifeline-eligible programs that can help you get the ACP discount for free Internet:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors’ Benefits
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

3. ACP- Eligible Assistance Programs

Some assistance programs only guarantee qualification for the ACP but not Lifeline Assistance. These programs support low-income individuals in their education and nutrition. Families with at least one member of these programs can qualify for a free broadband connection.

You only need to check if you participate in any of the following programs:

  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • School National Lunch Program (SNLP)

4. Assistance Programs for American Indians

American Indians living in tribes can benefit from specialized government programs for helping children, young adults, the disabled, and senior citizens. The programs provide supplemental nutrition, education, and income support to low-income families on Tribal Lands.

Your family can get free broadband internet if at least one member benefits from the following programs:

  • Tribal TANF
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Tribal Head Start
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance

5. Eligibility Based on Your Income

Compared to the Lifeline program and the EBB, the ACP has expanded income thresholds. Previously, applicants needed an annual household income of up to 135% of poverty guidelines. Only a small portion of the US population could qualify for that.

Now you need an income of up to 200% of poverty guidelines. That’s twice the poverty guidelines in any location across the United States. Therefore, over 40 million Americans can participate in the ACP. Are you one of these?

Qualifying incomes depend on your location and the number of people in the household. Here is a detailed review of the ACP income thresholds in different places within the US:

No. of family or household membersFederal Poverty Guidelines for 2022 (48 states, Washington DC, and territories)ACP income thresholds (48 states, Washington DC, and territories)Federal poverty guideline for 2022 (Hawaii)ACP Income thresholds (Hawaii)Federal poverty guidelines for 2022 (Alaska)ACP Income thresholds (Alaska)
Each additional family/ household member$4,720$9,440$5,430$10,860$5,900$11,800

Poverty guidelines in America largely depend on your location. For 49 states, Washington, DC, and other territories, the poverty guidelines are similar.

Therefore, a three-member family in these areas must have an annual income of up to $46,060 to qualify for the ACP. A four member family in the same area needs to earn $55,500. Annually.

There’s a $9,440 difference between the income threshold for a three member family and a four-member family. That represents the increase in income due to the additional family member.

In the island state of Hawaii, the poverty guidelines are a little more accommodating. A three member family needs to make up to $52,980 to qualify for the ACP. If your family has four members, you would need an annual income of up to $63,840.

The difference between the income requirements for three-member and four member families is $10,860. Consequently, increasing family members by one leads to an additional $10,860 to the ACP income threshold.

Alaska also has more accommodating income thresholds due to expanded poverty guidelines. A three-member family in Alaska needs to make up to $57,580. Those with four members in their households need an income of up to $69,380.

The difference between the income threshold for a three-member family and a four member family in Alaska is $11,800. That represents the increase in income requirements due to each additional family member.

How to Apply for Free Broadband Internet via the ACP

You may apply for free broadband internet online via USAC operated websites or the provider’s website. The following is the procedure you must take to apply for the ACP:

Step 1: Check Your Eligibility

Before applying for the ACP subsidy, first check whether or not you meet the eligibility criteria. USAC operates the National Verifier website, through which you can verify your eligibility.

It is as simple as entering your ID number on the website and clicking Verify. Within a few seconds, you’ll get results telling you that you qualify for the ACP and you can go ahead and apply for it.

Step 2: Apply for the ACP

Once you have verified your eligibility, you should apply for the ACP. Application is possible online or through snail mail. The following are some ways to hand in your ACP application:

  • Online Application: USAC allows eligible individuals and families to apply for the ACP via the National Verifier, Lifeline, or ACP websites. Applicants must fill out a for before submitting for review.
  • Mail-In Application: You may also send your ACP application by snail mail. If you choose this route, download and print the ACP application form. Fill out the form manually and submit it to ACP Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY, 40742.
  • Provider-Supported Application: Most broadband internet service providers allow users with verified eligibility to apply for the ACP via their websites. In most cases, they provide an ACP application form or redirect applicants to the National Verifier, ACP, or Lifeline websites.

Step 3: Attach Required Documents

As part of the ACP application process, you need to attach identify, proof of income, proof of participation in assistance, and proof-of-address documents. Online application requires digital copies of the documents while mail-in application requires photocopies. Regardless of how you attach them, the documents should be clear and legible.

Step 4: Select and Activate a Free Broadband Plan

If you haven’t already picked a broadband provider, now you have the opportunity to do it. Select a suitable broadband internet plan based on the download speed and cost. The broadband plan should essentially cost $30 or less for you to get it for free after the ACP subsidy. Where the provider requires you to activate the plan, ensure you complete it.

Step 5: Enjoy Free Broadband Internet and Renew your ACP Subsidy

With the ACP subsidy and an appropriate  plan, you should be able to use free broadband internet for your work, homework, and entertainment. After 12 months, you must recertify you ACP eligibility. If you still meet the eligibility criteria, you’ll get a discount for another 12 months. Otherwise, USAC will stop your benefit.

Documents Required to Apply for Free Broadband Internet via the ACP

One of the critical steps in the ACP application process is the attachment of necessary documents. But you can’t attach documents that you don’t have. Once you get verified for eligibility, collect all the documents you’ll need. The include the following:

1. Identity Documents

One of the prerequisites to an ACP application is the provision of officially recognisable identify documents. Besides your official name, the documents should contain your date of birth and Social Security Number (SSN). Ensure that you have at least one of the following documents:

  • US passport
  • A foreign passport
  • A birth certificate
  • A valid state-issued driver’s license
  • A certificate of citizenship or
  • A certificate of naturalisation
  • A federal, state, Tribal, or military ID

2. Proof-of-Income Documents

The annual household income is one of the ways to qualify for free broadband internet via the ACP. But it’s not enough to state how much your household makes annually. USAC requires you to provide documents from each member of the family earning an income.

Those who get paid monthly should provide enough documents to prove their annual income. Besides the name of the income earner, the document should also contain the amount of money they make in a year. Here are some documents you may use to prove your income:

  • Worker’s Compensation documents
  • Federal, state, or Tribal tax returns
  • Veterans Administration statement of benefits
  • Social Security statement of benefits
  • Your pay check stubs for 12 months
  • Pension documentation
  • A child support award
  • A divorce decree
  • any document proving your annual family income

3. Eligible Program Documents

Do you participate in a Lifeline-eligible, ACP-eligible, or Tribal assistance program? That could be the reason why you have qualified for the ACP. So, you need documents proving your participation in the programs.

The documents must bear the name of the beneficiary, whether a child, adult, disabled person, veteran, or senior citizen. It should also show the name of the organisation or government entity providing the benefits. Finally, the document should be current and unlikely to expire in less than 12 months.

Depending on the assistance program, the following are some of the documents you should collect:

  • Benefits award letter
  • Program approval letter
  • Children’s school documentation
  • Program verification letter
  • Program statement of benefit.

4. Additional Documents

You may need to provide additional documents to prove your address. Broadband internet service providers require your shipping address through which they can send you company merchandise. Examples of proof-of-address documents include bank statements, utility bills, and bank statements.

Emancipated minors may not apply for the ACP without the requisite documents. They need to provide court documents authorising their emancipation or a certificate of emancipation.

ACP Free Broadband Internet Providers

Many of the major broadband providers participate in the ACP program. They provide free internet with varied download and upload speeds. So, users should evaluate the providers critically before choosing any of their broadband internet plans. Here are some of the major free broadband internet service providers in the United States:

1. Allo Communications

Allo Communications’ mission is to provide affordable broadband and end the digital divide that excludes many people. Its free broadband package has internet speeds up to 100Mbps. However, users can enjoy discounted services if they choose the 50Mbps, 500Mbps, 1Gbps, or 2.3Gbps packages with phone service and Allo TV.

Before applying for the Allo Communications free broadband internet, eligible individuals must first verify their eligibility. Once approved, they should pick and validate an appropriate internet plan.

2. Hawaiian Telecom

Hawaiian Telecom is the main internet service provider for the island state. ACP-eligible individuals and families get free broadband internet courtesy of the ACP. The company offers free Fioptics 100Mbps Fiber Internet plus a wireless gateway.

Prospects should check their eligibility via the National Verifier website and submit their application through the Hawaiian Telecom website. Additionally, they may call Hawaiian Telecom at 1-808-643-3456 to claim their ACP discount.

3. Optimum

Both new and existing Optimum customers can get free internet by going to the company’s website. New Optimum customers need to verify their eligibility before applying for the ACP subsidy. After getting approved, they should select and enrol for a suitable ACP plan.  Existing customers can enrol into the ACP program expressly.

ACP-eligible customers get the following benefits:

  • 300Mbps fiber internet
  • No contracts
  • No equipment fees
  • $100 Visa prepaid card

4. AT&T

AT&T is one of America’s largest broadband internet service providers. It’s free broadband internet package delivers download speed of up to 100Mbps. Existing and new customers can enrol via the AT&T website. For new customers, prior verification of eligibility is a must.

5. Xfinity

Comcast Xfinity is a major internet service provider that also seeks to meet the needs of low-income families through targeted broadband internet plans. One such plan is Xfinity Internet Essentials, which provides download speeds up to 100Mbps. Without the ACP, the internet plan would cost you $9.95 monthly.

The company also offers Xfinity Internet 100, a plan with download speed of up to 100Mbps. New customers can select any of the Xfinity free internet packages. If you’re a current customer, Xfinity allows you to apply the ACP subsidy to your current service.

6. Frontier

Frontier is another option for low-income families looking for free broadband internet service. It simplifies the ACP enrollment process by connecting with prospects via a Messenger channel. There, you can ask questions about the enrolment process and get all the answers you need.

New customers must first verify their eligibility before applying for free broadband internet from Frontier. The packages that become free after the ACP subsidy include the $29.99 Frontier Essentials Internet and the Fiber Internet 100Mbps. Unless you get the $75 Tribal Lands subsidy, you’ll have to top up to get the other plans.

7. Cox Communications

You could also get free internet via the ACP, through Cox Communications. If your are a new customer, enter your address to check the availability of the Cox Communications network in your location.

The company provides free broadband internet via two mail packages, namely ConnectAssist and Connect2Compete. The ConnectAssist plan offers download speed of up to 100Mbps, free Wi-Fi, and unlimited data for one year or until you attain 1.25TB of data. On the other hand, the Connect2Compete package provides download speed up to 100Mbps, free Wi-Fi modem, with no credit checks.

8. Verizon

Verizon offers free broadband internet only on FiOS. Prospects must verify their eligibility via the National Verifier website before applying for the ACP subsidy. Once verified, they should check the availability on FiOS internet in their areas. Verizon will install FiOS services after which you must call them at 1-800-VERIZON to activate the ACP discount.

Getting free broadband internet from Verizon has several advantages, including the following:

  • No upfront fees
  • No installation charges
  • No hidden fees
  • No annual contracts
  • No equipment fees
  • No data caps
  • $500 for early termination charges

The Bottom Line

Now that you know how to get free broadband internet, why don’t you apply? First, ascertain that you meet the ACP eligibility criteria. After using and getting approved, activate the ACP subsidy with your provider.

You’ll enjoy free or subsidised broadband internet, depending on your plan. The ACP discount is available for 12 months, after which you must recertify.

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