What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program to help low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices. This investment in broadband affordability will help ensure we can afford the connections we need for work, school, health care and more for a long time.
Why is the EBB being discontinued?
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was just as the name implies: an emergency measure for households that suffered a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough due to COVID-19. The ACP is a long-term fund.
If I previously qualified for the EBB, am I automatically enrolled in the ACP?
No. Households that qualified for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program will need to requalify for the Affordable Connectivity Program. These households will receive additional details about the steps they need to take from the program administrator (USAC) or their broadband provider, in January 2022, and will be given at least 30 days to respond. They will continue to receive their full EBB benefit until March 1, 2022.
How much is the benefit?
The Affordable Connectivity Program will provide a discount of up to $30 per month towards broadband service for eligible households. This is a reduction of the $50 per month previously allowed under the EBB.
Do I receive the funds directly each month?
No, the Affordable Connectivity Program provides a monthly discount on broadband service of up to $30 per eligible household. Whidbey Telecom will receive the funds directly from the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Can more than one person in a household qualify?
No. The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount per household. A household is defined as a group of people who live together and share money even if they are not related to each other. If you live together and share money, you are one household. If you either don’t live together or you don’t share money, you are two or more households. You may have to answer questions about your household when you apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
Who is eligible for the ACP program?
A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
- If you or your child or dependent already receives a Lifeline benefit;
- If you or your child or dependent participates in certain government assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veterans Pension or other programs;
- Based on your household income. You can receive ACP if your income is 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines (see the table below). The guideline is based on your household size and state.
Qualify Through Your Child or Dependent
Any member of your household can make your household eligible if they participate in one of the programs above. For example, if your child or dependent participates in the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or is enrolled in a USDA Community Eligibility Provision school, your household qualifies for the ACP benefit.
When can I sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The ACP online portal will be available on December 31, 2021. Eligible households can enroll through an approved provider or by visiting https://acpbenefit.org/how-to-apply/.
Can I apply for the ACP if I have a past due balance?
Yes. Eligible consumers with a past due balance or a balance in collections are eligible for the benefit. The ACP does not apply to the past due balance, it will cover $30 of the current month’s invoice.
Can I use the funds to upgrade my service?
Yes. Talk to your provider about the plans they have available as part of the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Can I receive both ACP and Lifeline benefits at the same time?
Yes. You can also combine these benefits with other state and local benefits where available. If you are currently enrolled in the Lifeline program, you do not have to apply again for the ACP. You can apply your Lifeline and ACP benefit to the same or separate services. Speak to one of our Customer Service Reps about options to apply the discounts to your existing Lifeline service.
What is Lifeline and how do I qualify?
Lifeline is the FCC’s program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. To participate in the Lifeline program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain Tribal Programs. You can see if you are eligible by reviewing the information available at lifelinesupport.org (click “Do I Qualify?”).
What will happen with my bill when the EBB ends?
Whidbey Telecom will give you notice about the last date or billing cycle that the full benefit will apply to your bill and the date or billing cycle that a partial benefit will apply to your bill, in addition to information about the cost of your broadband service after the program ends.
- The end of the program may not be timed to your billing cycle for service. This may result in you receiving less than the full monthly service discount in the final month of the program. In the event that you might receive a partial benefit in the last month of the program, your participating provider must receive your permission before they can charge you an amount higher than what you would pay if the full Emergency Broadband Benefit is applied to your broadband bill. In other words, if you were receiving a $50 discount off of your broadband bill, but based on the available funds in the program, there is only enough to provide you with a $40 discount, your provider must have your permission to charge you the additional $10.
- Households will need to opt-in or request to continue broadband services with their provider. If you don’t opt-in or select a new service plan with your provider, your broadband service will end once the program ends. Even if you had service with the same provider before enrolling in the Emergency Broadband Benefit, you will need to opt-in to continue broadband services after the program ends.
More information about actions current Emergency Broadband Benefit recipients will need to take to continue receiving the Affordable Connectivity Program benefit after the transition period will be available in the coming weeks. The FCC is seeking comment on the changes enacted in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and will be adopting rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Please stay tuned for additional updates.
How do I file a complaint with the FCC if I need to?
The FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center website is www.consumercomplaints.fcc.gov and the phone number is 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322).