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Affordable Connectivity Program

What’s Changing with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) ?  

  • The maximum monthly benefit will change from $50 per month to $30 per month for households not located on qualifying Tribal lands. The monthly benefit will remain at $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. 
  • Households have new ways to qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program such as: receiving WIC benefits or having an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Households that qualified for the Emergency Broadband Benefit due to a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 or by meeting the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s COVID-19 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. 

Resources for School and District Leaders

To help schools and districts as they assist with ACP sign-ups, OET developed FAQs and resources to facilitate communication with families about their eligibility. This includes a template letter to let families know their child receives free or reduced-price school meals and therefore meets the ACP’s eligibility criteria. OET also provides a sample form that can be used to obtain families’ consent to share their child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals with ACP-participating providers.

Strategies for School and District Outreach to Families

As trusted community members, schools and districts are encouraged to engage in outreach to eligible families. In doing so, schools and districts can use the FCC’s outreach toolkit, with resources translated into multiple languages. In addition, schools and districts can take steps to help families navigate the sign-up process. Consider using the following strategies to get the word out to families.

You can download helpful outreach materials at the at the FCC’s website. Consider the best communication methods for reaching your eligible families, including sending emails or newsletters, distributing printed fliers with school lunches, or using social media channels. These materials, translated into several languages, can be adapted or customized for your school or district
Limited digital skills or language barriers may present barriers to families navigating the sign-up process. Families may also be hesitant to share personal information required for sign-up. These barriers may disproportionately impact English learners, children of immigrants without documentation, or students experiencing homelessness. Launching an outreach team made up of students, families, or trusted community partners can help address these barriers to access. DigitalBridgeK-12 has resources on how to start and train an outreach team and outreach tips and templates.
The first step to sign up for the ACP is to confirm which local providers are participating in the program. Schools and districts can proactively help eligible families identify which local providers are participating by assembling a list of participating providers by zip code using the USAC Companies Near Me tool. Providing this localized list along with the ACP information may be helpful for families that have limited technology access, digital skills, or language barriers. Alternatively, a school or district outreach team can offer in-person or virtual support for eligible families trying to identify participating providers. It is important to note that there may be some communities that do not have any participating providers. In addition, rural communities without existing broadband infrastructure may be limited in their ability to take advantage of the ACP.
Consider organizing a participating provider fair so that families can compare and ask questions about the available internet service plans offered by each local participating provider. Meeting local provider representatives provides an opportunity to begin building trust with families that may be hesitant to sign-up for a temporary program. Any provider fair should be consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines and state/local requirements.
As noted in A-4, families with children attending non-CEP schools will need to provide documentation to verify their child’s participation in the NSLP or SBP during the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year. Due to the pandemic, it is likely that the last letter a family received confirming their child’s participation in the free or reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program may have been sent in fall 2019. We encourage schools or districts to consider adapting and sending the template letter as households may no longer have their eligibility status letter for the NSLP or SBP.

About the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) ACP is a federal program to help eligible households pay for internet service. If you have students whose families are struggling to afford their monthly internet service, this program may be able to help. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) administers the ACP under the direction of the FCC. Visit ACPBenefit.org for more information.
The ACP provides a monthly discount of not more than $30 per month on broadband service and associated equipment (for example, a modem) for eligible households and not more than $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. If the participating consumer chooses an eligible plan that costs $30/month or less, the consumer will receive that service for free.

Each participating household may also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for one connected device—a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer—where available from a participating broadband provider, as long as the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 towards the cost of the device. Each participating household is limited to a single device discount. If a household had obtained a connected device because of its enrollment in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB), which ended on December 31, 2021, the household would not be eligible for an ACP connected device.

School Tip: Not all participating providers are offering a connected device, so this might be something families consider when selecting which participating provider they will use.

Households with a child who has received approval for benefits under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the School Breakfast Program (SBP), including a child who attends a school participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), are eligible for the ACP. This includes any child who currently receives benefits during the 2021-2022 school year or did so in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school years. For CEP-participating schools or districts, all students are eligible for the ACP.

In addition, a household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
  • Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program
  1. Use USAC’s Companies Near Me tool to confirm whether there is a participating internet service provider offering service in their area.

    School Tip: Some participating providers may not have coverage in all parts of your community, so it is important for each family to check with the provider(s) listed for their zip code to confirm they offer service to their address.

  2. There are several ways to sign up for the program, so families should contact their preferred participating provider for more information. A service provider may operate its own eligibility process if they have received approval from the FCC. The service provider also may work with the school to confirm household eligibility through the free or reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program if the school has obtained written consent from the family to release such information. A service provider may also use or direct applicants to use the Lifeline National Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier) application process, which is administered by USAC. National Verifier applications can be completed at a participating service provider store location, or via mail.
  3. When applying, applicants must provide: (a) full name, (b) date of birth, and (c) address. To verify their identity, applicants may provide the last four digits of their Social Security Number (SSN), or their full Tribal Identification (ID) Number, or they can submit one of the following to verify their identity: a U.S. Government-issued ID, military ID, U.S. passport, U.S. driver’s license or ID, or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. If the household is eligible through a child or dependent, applicants will also be asked to provide similar information for the benefit qualifying person. More information on forms of documentation is available on the USAC website: https://acpbenefit.org/how-to-apply/show-you-qualify/.

    School Tip: If households are unable or uncomfortable using the last four digits of their Social Security Number, they can use one of the other forms of identification listed above.

  4. Verify eligibility. Families qualifying for the ACP using their NSLP or SBP eligibility status will also need to submit certain information and/or documentation to verify their eligibility for the ACP, depending on whether their child attends a CEP school or district:
    • For CEP schools or districts:
      • If applying online, enter the name of the CEP school and list the name of the student attending the CEP school.
      • If applying by mail, provide the student’s name, school name, city, and state of a school that participates in the Community Eligibility Provision for the 2019–2020, 2020–2021, and/or 2021-2022 school year.
      • For both options, families must provide documentation that demonstrates that their child or dependent (referred to as a benefit qualifying person or BQP on the application) attends a CEP school. The documentation must include: the benefit qualifying person’s name, name of the school or of the school district, and a date that coincides with the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year. Examples of acceptable documentation include a letter from the school or school district or a report card that provides the information listed above and indicates that the benefit qualifying person listed on the application is enrolled in the CEP school also provided by the consumer on the application.
    • For non-CEP schools or districts:
      • Families must provide documentation verifying student participation in the NSLP or SBP, including a school or district-issued letter confirming student participation in either program during the 2019–2020, 2020–2021, or 2021-2022 school year. A template letter that can be adapted is available in the Office of Educational Technology website.
No. If families sign up directly for the ACP through the National Verifier, schools and districts will not be contacted to verify student participation in the NSLP and SBP.

For CEP schools or districts, the USAC will automatically check the name of the CEP school or district against the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) database to confirm the CEP status of the school provided by the household on the ACP application. However, households will be required to enter the school’s name, the student’s name, and provide documentation that shows that the student listed on the application is enrolled in the school during the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school years.

For non-CEP schools, neither USAC nor the participating provider will be contacting the school or district to confirm the student’s participation in the free or reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program.

If the school, district, local government, or other community organization is paying the full cost of internet service and the receiving household does not pay any fee for the service, the ACP subsidy cannot be claimed by the school, district, etc. or the household. If any such local program ends, eligible households could instead receive a discount through the ACP.
It is possible for a school or district to verify the eligibility status of students and their families for the ACP; however, there are several important considerations:

Protecting student privacy.In accordance with student privacy requirements under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the National School Lunch program,2 a school or district that initiates sign up for eligible students must obtain written consent to share student participation in the free or reduced price school lunch program or the school breakfast program with a participating provider. A template consent form that can be adapted is available on the Office of Educational Technology website.

Working with participating providers. To verify eligibility, schools would need to work directly with the participating provider or providers in their area, and those providers may need to seek additional authorization from the FCC to operate their own verification process using the NSLP and SBP meal eligibility status information provided by the school. Schools interested in this option should discuss this with local providers directly to see if the providers have the ability to operate this type of verification process.

Additional information can be found on USAC’s consumer website, https://acpbenefit.org/ or by calling the USAC Affordable Connectivity Program Support Center at 877-384-2575. You can also find information on the FCC’s website, https://www.fcc.gov/acp

Disclaimers

This document was produced by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Other than statutory and regulatory requirements included in the document, the contents of this guidance do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or the Department’s or agency’s policies.  

This document contains resources (including links to those resources) that are provided for the user’s convenience. Inclusion of these materials is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed or products or services offered. These materials might contain the views and recommendations of various subject-matter experts, as well as hyperlinked text, contact addresses, and websites to information that other public and private organizations created and maintain. The opinions expressed in any of these materials do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Department. The Department does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of any outside information included in these materials.

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