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Affordable internet program may end for millions; these are other local options

Mar 22, 2024, 5:40 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2024, 2:59 pm

Photo: Xfinity store...

DELN held a meeting Thursday on affordable internet options in Washington. (Photo: David Zalubowski)

(Photo: David Zalubowski)

Over 300,000 Washington residents have been notified that an affordable internet program could end after April.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) through the Federal Communication Commission currently allows a $30 internet discount for those who qualify as low-income.

ACP currently helps millions of Americans. However, Congress has yet to approve new funding and therefore ACP could end after next month.

“Without action from Congress, this program will sunset this spring and millions of Americans may no longer be able to afford high-speed internet service,” wrote a post by the White House.

As Broadband Breakfast, an online publication devoted to broadband technology and internet policy, noted in its coverage of this issue, last week, 33 Democratic and independent senators co-signed a letter urging Senate and House leaders to use “must-pass” budget legislation to include an extension of the ACP. Sens. John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania, Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, and Alex Padilla, D-California, are among the notable senators who signed the letter.

It is also worth noting Republican J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, is already a co-sponsor of a bi-partisan and bi-cameral measure to support an extension of the ACP with $7 billion in funding, Broadband Breakfast explained. Legislation was introduced in January. But that has not yet translated into the continued funding of the ACP.

8 internet providers give options for low-income Washington residents

According to Digital Equity Advisor for the City of Seattle, David Keyes, 77,000 people are using ACP in King County.

With its possible end approaching, many people are wondering how they will afford the extra cost.

On Thursday, the Digital Equity Learning Network (DELN) in King County, held a meeting with representatives from eight internet companies.

MyNorthwest listened in to recap options for those using ACP, or those who qualify for low-income and want cheaper options.

Comcast representative Carla Carrell started off the meeting.

Carrell explained Xfinity, which is part of Comcast, offers Internet Essentials for low-income people. Those who qualify can get download speeds up to 50 Mbps for $9.95/month or up to 100 Mbps for $29.95/month.

To start an application, visit Internet Essential’s website.

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Verizon was next with representative Bliss Collins.

Collins said currently ACP is offered on 5 GB internet plans. However, with ACP benefits ending Collins pointed people toward Verizon’s Forward Program.

Those who qualify can get home internet at $20/month. The lowest plan Verizon offers is $50/month but with the benefit, customers would pay $30/month. To apply, visit Verizon’s website.

Collins also said Verizon is working to make its minute plans more affordable.

T-Mobile was next, offering Metro by T-Mobile or Assurance Wireless.

T-Mobile Representative Bob Stanchina said the ACP benefit won’t stop for customers until the end of May. He said if more funding doesn’t get approved, customers will get a $15 discount from June to August.

He said the lowest cost service with Metro is $30/month but can go as low as $15/month depending on what the customer can afford.

He also said home interest special offers are coming soon with Metro.

Assurance Wireless offers the Lifeline Assistance Program. Stanchina said ACP-only customers should apply for the program. However, those bundled with Lifeline and ACP will automatically fall back on the Lifeline Program.

Astound Internet was next. Representative Briana Woods referred people to Internet First, Astounds’ low-income internet.

Those who qualify can get 50 Mbps for $9.95/month and can apply on Internet First’s website.

Woods also said Astound sent letters and messages to customers using ACP.

PCs for People, a nonprofit offering hotspots and computers, was also in the meeting.

Representative Andrea Lindsay said those within 200% of the federal poverty level can qualify for services.

She added King County residents can purchase a one-time hotspot for $60 and then pay $15 per month.

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Those using ACP can choose to purchase another month for $15, or it will be canceled by default. For more on how PCs for People customers will be affected, visit PCs for People’s website.

Zilply Fiber’s (formerly Frontier) representative Elizanth Brayman also referred people to the Lifeline Program.

InterConnection, a Seattle nonprofit, was also represented in the meeting.

Representative Julie Morris said people who qualify for ACP will also qualify for InterConnection’s services.

InterConnection offers a hotspot for a one-time purchase of $66 and then $14.95/month. It also offers discounted technology.

Morris said InterConnection currently has no hotspots available but will have more next week. To learn more, visit InterConnection’s website.

Representative: ‘Many people are eligible that aren’t participating’

Lumen (formerly Century Link) was the last to go.

“Many people are eligible that aren’t participating,” said Lumen representative Rob Thomas.

Thomas said Lumen is working to send a second notification to those who use ACP. He also referenced the Lifeline Program as an option.

Thomas said the lowest plan at Lumen is $30/month. So those using ACP who were paying zero dollars will now pay $30 unless they cancel.

Thomas also said he’s working with lawmakers to lower internet costs.

DELN representatives said the meeting will be posted on its website and available to watch next week.

Editors’ note: This piece originally was published on Thursday, March 21. It has been updated and updated multiple times since then.

Contributing: Steve Coogan

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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Affordable internet program may end for millions; these are other local options