High-speed internet has increasingly become a necessity rather than a luxury, a fact made clear during the COVID-19 pandemic as many work and school activities have had to be completed remotely.
Therefore, it is important to know that it is estimated that more than 40 percent of South Carolina homes are eligible for a federal initiative that reduces or eliminates the cost of Internet access.
The Affordable Connectivity Program was launched in late 2021 as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The same law encouraged the expansion of broadband services as many people did not have access to high-speed internet.
Bipartisan federal and state efforts to make high-speed Internet available throughout South Carolina are underway. In 2022, more than 100,000 households gained access and an estimated 137,000 remained without access, The Post and Courier previously reported.
When it comes to paying for the service, the Affordable Connectivity Program can help with a $30 monthly rebate — enough to cover the full cost of many major provider plans available to ACP beneficiaries. On tribal lands, the discount is even greater.
For information on how to apply, visit availableconnectivity.gov/how-to-apply/ or call 877-384-2575. To find service providers offering ACP services, there is an online search tool at cnm.universalservice.org.
Yes I know people without internet service are asked to go online to get internet service. Just another example of how people need internet service for almost everything.
An estimated 827,000 of South Carolina’s 1,976,447 households should qualify for ACP. And there are many ways to qualify.
First, households earning no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which varies by family size, qualify. That works out to $29,160 for a single person, $39,440 for a two-person household, $49,720 for three people, $60,000 for four people, and so on.
Households also qualify for ACP if only one person in the household participates in or receives:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as Food StampsMedicaidSpecial Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, ow WICSupplemental Security Income or SSIFederal Public Housing Assistance, including housing choice vouchers (Section 8), project-based rental assistance, public housing, and Affordable housing programs for Native Americans, Alaska Natives or Hawaii Natives in the current award year will receive a Lifeline benefit
There are additional ways to qualify for those residing on qualifying tribal lands.
Even those already enrolled with Lifeline do not need to apply for ACP. Simply contact your provider to add the service, or any other ISP that participates in ACP.
Lifeline has been around since 1985 and offers people on low incomes a roughly $10 monthly discount on phone service. Recipients can receive both Lifeline and ACP benefits.
There are 1,300 ISPs that accept ACP benefits. (Who knew there were so many Internet companies?) Some of the biggest — AT&T, Comcast, Wow, T-Mobile — have high-speed plans for $30 a month or less, making them free with ACP.
The ACP services go directly to the service provider.
There’s also a discount of up to $100 on connected devices — tablets, laptops, or desktops — when delivered to an ACP receiver by the ISP. The recipient must pay more than $10 but less than $50 for the device, the regulations said.
As with many government programs, there are rules and some bureaucracy, but the takeaway is that more than 40 percent of South Carolina households could be eligible for free or discounted high-speed Internet. Nationwide, 15.5 million people were receiving ACP benefits earlier this year.
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Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.