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How to apply for the ACP

Headshot of Kathryn Casna
Researched by
Kathryn CasnaSenior Staff Writer
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 5/24/23

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The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government program that helps low-income families get affordable broadband internet. It’s run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If you qualify for ACP, you’ll get a huge discount on your internet bill and possibly save a ton on a new laptop or tablet. Here’s what you need to know to apply for and use the ACP to save money on internet.

What is the ACP?

There are two ACP benefits: a monthly subsidy on your internet bill and a one-time discount on an internet-ready device. Not all internet providers offer both these benefits, and you’ll have to meet income requirements to qualify.

Monthly internet savings

This benefit helps you lower your internet costs by paying some or all of your internet bill. You can get up to $30 off your monthly internet costs or up to $75 if you live on Tribal lands. It can cover the cost of your plan, equipment rental, and other fees on your bill. But your benefit will only be as large as your internet bill. So if your service costs you only $20, you won’t get $10 back. But you will get free internet.

Generally, your ACP subsidy is applied directly to your bill each month without any additional work from you. And many internet service providers help you apply on their websites.

Device discount

With this benefit, you can get up to $100 towards a tablet, desktop computer, or laptop computer. The catch is that you must contribute between $10 and $50 toward the purchase yourself. That means the item needs to cost less than $150 dollars, which limits what you can buy. And you must purchase your device through an internet provider that participates in ACP. This $100 discount is good for only one device per household.

What the ACP won’t pay for

The ACP can cover a big chunk of your internet bill, it’s not meant for all internet expenses. Here’s what it won’t cover:

  • Installation charges, even if they’re spread out over multiple bills
  • One-time activation or similar fees
  • Purchasing your own internet equipment like a router or modem

How to qualify for ACP

You can qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program in two ways: by income or by participating in another qualifying government program. The FCC determines eligibility for each household via getinternet.gov. You can’t get multiple benefits for people in the same household.

The FCC defines a household as “a group of people who live together and share money even if they are not related to each other.” That means you and your roommate might be in different households, but you and your spouse are in the same household. Learn more about who is in your household.

Eligibility by income

To qualify for ACP by income, you must have an annual household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. The exact income limit varies by how many people are in your household. And if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, your income limit will be different too.

Maximum household income to qualify for ACP

Household sizeContinental USAlaskaHawaii
For each additional person, add:$10,280$12,860$11,820
Data from https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/do-i-qualify/. Accessed 12 May 2023.

If your household meets these requirements, you may need proof of income. Usually, that means copies of your pay stubs or your most recent tax return. So when you apply, have these documents ready.

Eligibility by program

You may be able to skip the income requirement when applying for ACP if someone else in your household already receives benefits from an eligible government program:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Free or reduced-cost school lunches
  • SNAP
  • Medicaid
  • Federal housing assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • WIC
  • Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
  • Lifeline

You may also be eligible if you live on qualifying Tribal lands and receive benefits from one of these programs:

  • Tribal TANF
  • Tribal Head Start
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance

Finally, you might be eligible for ACP if you qualify for your internet provider’s low-income assistance program.

How to apply for ACP

You can apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program in one of three ways: on the ACP website, with a paper application, or through your provider.

ACP website

Go to www.affordableconnectivity.gov to apply on the ACP website and start the application with the last four digits of your social security number. If you don’t have a social security number, you can use a Tribal ID number, a driver’s license number, a passport number, or another government-issued ID number. Be ready to upload a copy of whichever ID you plan to use with your application, too.

The application will also ask for your:

  • Email address
  • Home address
  • Date of birth

If you don’t have a home address, you can drop a pin on a digital map or use an address you frequent. If you don’t have an email address, you can mail in a paper application.

If you plan to qualify for ACP based on your participation in another government program like SNAP or Medicaid, have your information from that program ready too. You may be asked to upload a benefit award letter, statement of benefits, benefit verification letter, or other proof of your participation.

When you apply online, you’ll create a username and password to log back in and check your application status or reapply later. If your application is approved, you’ll have 90 days to find an internet provider and sign up for a plan. If you miss that deadline, you’ll have to reapply for ACP.

Paper application

If you don’t want to apply online, you can download a form in English or Spanish. Print it, fill it out, and mail it to the address on the form. You can also download instructions in these languages:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • Arabic
  • Simplified Chinese
  • French
  • Korean
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese

With the paper application, you’ll fill out the same information as the online application, and you may need to mail in Xerox copies of your documents with your application.

Using a paper application typically takes longer than an online application, but you won’t need an email address, and you won’t have to create an online account.

Through your provider

With many internet providers, you can apply for the ACP when you sign up for an internet plan. Each provider has a slightly different process. Some want you to shop for a plan first, while others want you to apply for ACP first. Some providers have you apply through a third-party website like ID.me or National Verifier. Other providers simply send you to the FCC’s online application.

We recommend applying directly with the FCC—online or with a paper application—before shopping for internet. Knowing how much of a discount you get on internet can help you decide which plan is right for you.

ACP vs. Lifeline: what’s the difference?

The Affordable Connectivity Program and the Lifeline Program are very similar. The Lifeline program helps low-income households pay for internet or phone service—but not both.

The benefit amount is much lower than the ACP benefit, and the amount depends on both your income and which services you receive. Qualified households can receive up to $9.25 per month—or $34.25 if you live on Tribal lands. This benefit stacks on top of the ACP benefit, which means the maximum benefit for both programs is $39.25—or $109.25 if you live on Tribal lands.

The Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) determines eligibility for Lifeline. If you qualify for Lifeline, you will also qualify for ACP, but you’ll still need to fill out an ACP application. However, some people who qualify for the ACP won’t qualify for Lifeline. That’s because the income requirements of Lifeline are stricter. Instead of 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, your household income must be below 135%.

You may also qualify for Lifeline via one of these programs:

  • SNAP
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
  • Some Tribal programs

Which providers participate in ACP?

Nearly every internet provider we’ve reviewed participates in the Affordable Connectivity Program. Some even have special internet plans that help you maximize this benefit without exceeding your budget. Often, these special plans include equipment costs but deliver lower speeds than similarly-priced options.

Provider participation in ACP and Lifeline

ProviderMonthly discountDevice discountLifeline discount
AT&TYesNoPhone service only
CoxYesNoVaries by state
FrontierYesNoVaries by state
Google FiberYesNoNo
Rise BroadbandYesNoYes
T-Mobile Home InternetYesNoYes
Verizon FiosYesNoYes

How to pay less for internet

If you don’t qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program or Lifeline, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck. See more ways to save on internet or get free or low-cost internet. Check out the cheapest internet companies, or search providers in your area and compare their prices.

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Contributing researcher
Headshot of Kathryn Casna
Researched by
Kathryn CasnaSenior Staff Writer

Kathryn is a consumer advocate writer who helps people quickly and easily find the best products and services for their needs. Over the last decade, she's helped people navigate everything from Internet companies to Medicare plans to business software. When she's not geeking out about saving her readers time and money, you'll find her climbing the rocks of Utah—or asleep in her favorite hammock.

Contributing reviewer
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor

Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.