Broadband

Federal agency continues to offer discounts on Internet services

  • March 17, 2022
  • Broadband

Molly Bolan, Sentinel Staff wrote the following article in The Keene Sentinel about the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program:

With the extension of a federal program to make broadband services more affordable, households of low income can apply for monthly discounts on Internet services.

The Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program provides up to $30 off broadband services each month, a $75 monthly discount for households on Tribal lands, as well as a one-time $100 discount on a computer, laptop or tablet. (The household must contribute $10 to $50 for the purchase.)

The new program replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which Congress approved as a temporary initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This earlier version provided up to $50 off broadband services each month, up to $75 off broadband for households on Tribal lands, and up to $100 off a computer, laptop or tablet.

The transition period between these two programs ended March 1.

“The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit proved what many knew to be true: the cost of high-speed internet is out of reach for too many of us,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a December news release. “Now with the long-term Affordable Connectivity Program, we have the opportunity to enroll even more households and help ensure they can afford the internet connections they need for work, school, health care and more for years.”

The pandemic highlighted gaps in Internet connectivity and access as people attended jobs and classes from their homes.

In a 2020 survey conducted by the N.H. Department of Education, 32 percent of parents in School Administrative Unit 29, which covers Keene and several other municipalities, said technical issues disrupted their child’s remote instruction at least sometimes.

In a news release issued Monday, ConVal School District Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders encouraged local families to enroll in the program.

“There should be no barriers to education, and no struggle to obtain information. Connectivity is one of the keys to a 21st century education,” said Rizzo Saunders, whose district covers Peterborough and many other area communities, in the release. “Every student should have access to a secure and reliable broadband connection. I encourage any family that is eligible to sign up for this benefit.”

Households eligible for the benefit are those with at least one member with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; who participates in a program such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid or the Women, Infant and Child Program; who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches; or meets the eligibility requirements of a broadband provider’s existing program for households of low income.

A few dozen broadband providers across New Hampshire are participating in the program, including U.S. Cellular, Verizon, AT&T and Tracfone Wireless. A full list can be found at www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers.

People interested in enrolling in the program can go to ACPBenefit.org to fill out an application online or to download a mail-in application. They must also contact their preferred participating broadband provider to have the discount applied to their bill.

Additional information about the Affordable Connectivity Program is available at www.fcc.gov/ACP, or by calling 877-384-2575, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Molly Bolan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436 or [email protected]

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