As of the end of 2021, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) launched in May 2021 via federal stimulus dollars.
ACP is the permanent, $14.2 billion government program to fund digital tools for low-income families. The new benefit for those eligible is $30 per month toward internet bills, or $75 per month on Tribal lands, and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a computer device. You can check eligibility and how to apply on the ACP’s website.
Households enrolled in the EBB program as of Dec. 31, 2021, will continue to receive their current $50 monthly discount until March 1, 2022.
With the program transition, the criteria and benefits have changed. Now, those who qualified due to substantial loss of income, being furloughed or through an internet services provider’s COVID-19 program will need to reapply. And the criteria to quality based on income is now set at 200% below the federal poverty level, or $43,920 a year for a household of three.
Those who receive benefits from programs such as Pell Grants, SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or WIC, or who have a child who receives free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast in the most recent three school years, still qualify.
The reduced lunch program is key to Baltimore residents: Because every student in Baltimore City Public Schools receives free school meals, if you have a child in BCPS, it should mean that you qualify for ACP, according to Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MIMA) Director Catalina Rodriguez Lima.
To verify eligibility, ACP will ask for a letter confirming the free lunch status. You can contact your school directly for a letter, and MIMA is currently reaching out to the school district to get a districtwide letter to aid in households qualifying for this benefit, Rodriguez Lima told Technical.ly. This letter would be needed by those in the immigrant community who don’t have a social security number and don’t qualify for ACP through other avenues, Rodriguez Lima said.
Technical.ly reached out to the Federal Communications Commission to clarify whether assistance for all BCPS students would be automatically covered by the ACP. Paloma Perez, press secretary for Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, responded and said they would indeed be qualified.
However, she added, “a household that wishes to qualify through that avenue should be ready to submit some sort of documentation to prove enrollment, such as the submission of a report card or another similar document that would prove a child’s enrollment in the current school year.”
Baltimore has 96,000 households lacking home internet access. Along with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to connect low-income families to low-cost internet service, the ACP could have a major impact on affordability of home internet from Baltimore’s largest internet service provider.
“Digital access is not something that impacts immigrants alone,” Rodriguez Lima said. “It impacts many other communities. If we can play a role in making the ecosystem better for all, it’s a win-win situation for all.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.