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Monday July 22, 2024

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Finding Affordable Internet Services

The Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes my monthly internet bill, is about to end. What are my options for finding affordable home internet services?

Without additional funding from Congress, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is winding down and will end in mid-May. The ACP is a government subsidy that has provided millions of eligible households with a discount of up to $30 per month toward home internet service. The benefit also provides up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

The ACP was initially born in 2021 out of a pandemic-era program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit. It was replaced six months later by the longer-term ACP when Congress devoted $14.2 billion to the program as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

More than 23 million households are currently enrolled in the ACP which has significantly helped close the digital divide, as affordability has been the primary barrier that has kept most ACP beneficiaries from obtaining home internet services. But funds are almost exhausted, and lawmakers have not provided additional funding for the program at this time.­­­

What to Do Now?

A first step in securing affordable home internet services is to contact your current provider to find out if they offer any other discounts or low-cost services that fit your budget. If none are available, it is best to explore other providers. There may be nonprofit organizations that can help you find low-income discounted internet services from providers in your area.

Some cities and states are also offering their own subsidies to help low-income households pay for internet services. The best way to find these programs is searching online for internet resources in your area.  

Check Lifeline Benefit

If you have not already done so, you should determine if you are eligible for the Lifeline program. Unlike the ACP, Lifeline is a permanently funded federal assistance program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy that can help pay for home internet, phone or bundled services (up to $34.25 if you live on Tribal lands). Only one benefit is available per household.

To qualify, your annual household income must be at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $20,331 for one person or $27,594 for two in 2024. You may also qualify if you, or someone in your household, receive certain types of government benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), public housing assistance, veterans' pension or survivors pension benefit or live on federally recognized Tribal lands.

You may apply for Lifeline online at LifelineSupport.org, via mail or through your internet or phone provider. If you need additional assistance or have questions about the process, call the support line at 800-234-9473.

Other Options

If you find that you are not eligible for any assistance programs, you may still be able to save on your internet costs by shopping and comparing. The best way to do this is to search online for a list of internet providers in your area, along with pricing and download speeds. Most providers offer plans under $50 monthly, and you may receive additional discounts for bundling with a cellphone plan or signing an annual contract. 

Another way to save some money is to buy your own equipment. Most internet service providers charge around $15 per month to rent a modem and router. However, you may purchase your own for less than $200, which will likely pay for itself within the first year.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published May 10, 2024

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