If ACP Ends, 2.8M Californians Could Lose Internet Support

(TNS) — A program that helped millions of households across the country — and 2.8 million in California — afford internet access is ending, without additional funding from Congress.

Here’s what you should know about the Affordable Connectivity Program ending and how you can still get help for now.

What’s happening?

The Affordable Connectivity Program began in 2021 under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Congress appropriated $14.2 billion, according to the Federal Communications Commission. It helped 22.5 million households save between $30 and $75 monthly on internet bills, according to the White House. It also provided a one-time discount up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.

California received about $1.3 billion in funding through the program that helped about 1-in-5 households in the state.

The FCC said in a release that current funding is projected to run out in April and households will receive benefits through the end of the month. The program needs a $6 billion infusion to extend the program through 2024, according to the White House.

When funds run out, households won’t get the discounts.

In a December letter to the FCC, four Republican lawmakers — including South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — said the push to renew the program could “exacerbate the fiscal crisis without producing meaningful benefits to the American consumer.”

A bipartisan group of six lawmakers — including Democrat Sen. Peter Welch from Vermont and Republican Sen. JD Vance from Ohio — called for additional funding through the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, according to a news release.

“Access to high-speed internet isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity,” Welch said in the release. “That’s why it’s never been so important to avoid this funding cliff and extend the ACP.”

The program could go on through the extension act.

As it stands, participating households will get notices from their internet company about the end of the program that will include the impact on their bill, the date of the last bill that includes the ACP benefit, and that they can change their service or opt-out of continuing service.

The Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the program, will also notify households.

Households in the program can change their internet plan without a penalty.

What do I do if I’m losing the discount?

If you’ll lose your discount, the FCC recommends contacting your internet company if you have questions and to ask about available options. You should also visit GetInternet.gov for more information.

You can also call the ACP Support Center at 877-384-2575.

If you’re worried about losing the benefit, there may be another option.

The Lifeline Program, another FCC program making phone and internet access more affordable, offers a monthly benefit up to $9.25 off the cost of phone, internet or bundled services. If you live on qualifying Tribal Lands, you could get up to $34.25 off the cost.

To qualify, your must have an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or participate in programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Social Security Income, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain Tribal programs.

You can apply for the California LifeLine Program at californialifeline.com.

Important dates

Late January 2024: ACP households will start receiving notices about the end of the benefit.

Feb. 7 at 11:59 p.m. eastern: That’s the last day to apply and enroll. If your household is eligible, you have to be both approved and enrolled with an internet company by that time. After midnight, no more enrollments will be accepted.

April 2024: That’s the anticipated timeframe for the end of funding. It could change.

© 2024 The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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