How to see if you qualify for discounted internet access

Housing. Food. Even pet care. Thanks to some of the worst inflation we’ve seen in decades, it feels like almost everything is more expensive than it should be.

If you or someone you know has been struggling financially or if someone in your household receive certain kinds of government benefits, you might be owed a discount on your internet bill.

For many families, that means savings of $30/month. And for those living on tribal lands, that discount is as high as $75/month.

These price breaks come courtesy of the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which launched earlier this year to try to narrow the country’s digital divide. And even if you don’t benefit from the program directly, you could be doing someone in your life a real favor by letting them know the ACP exists, so take minute with us to learn how it works.

Thankfully, the process boils down to three steps.

1. Find out if you qualify

There are a few ways you might qualify for the ACP. Your household could come in below a specific income level, for example. A family of four in the continental United States bringing in less than $55,500 a year qualifies for the discount. If you or someone in your household is on Medicaid, gets a veterans pension, or received a Pell Grant to go to college this year, you also get a discount.

To see the full list of qualifiers, visit the Affordable Connectivity Program website.

This is also a good time to make sure your internet provider — or one you’d like to use — participates in the program. Most big-name internet service providers participate in the ACP, including Verizon, AT&T, and Xfinity, but smaller, more regional companies may not.

The best way to check is to visit this website created by the Universal Service Administrative Company, the organization that actually runs the program. Unfortunately, we’ve encountered situations where that site doesn’t load any results even when there are participating companies in a specific area — if that happens to you, try calling the internet provider directly.

2. Fill out an application

If you qualify for the ACP — or want to double-check that you do — visit the Affordable Connectivity Program website to start working on an application. (Don’t worry: You don’t need to print and mail a form unless you really want to.)

That online form asks for things like your name, address, and a way to verify your identity — think the last four digits of your Social Security Number, or another form of official ID. Depending on how you qualify, you may be asked to provide other information like proof of income.

3. Contact your internet provider

Once your ACP application is approved by the USAC, you’re nearly home free. Now you just have to contact your internet provider to activate that monthly discount. In some cases, you can do that right on your provider’s website, but a phone call to its customer service line will do the trick, too.

One more thing to keep in mind: Some of these companies also offer low-cost internet plans designed for use with the ACP discount, which means you or someone you know may be able to get online for free (or close to it).