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Where Is the ACP Going? What to Do, How to Prepare

Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) participants are facing an uncertain future with the possible end of ACP funding. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will stop accepting new applications after February 7, and BridgingApps has already paused Digital Navigator assistance filling out ACP applications. Here’s what we currently know about the FCC’s “wind-down” plan; efforts toward new ACP funds; and your options if connectivity costs go up.

The ACP: Past, Present, and Future

The ACP’s history began when the COVID pandemic drew public attention to remote work, education, and healthcare—and the problems of lacking dependable internet access. To help lower-income households manage, the FCC launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which was replaced by the ACP at the end of 2021. With monthly credits toward internet service, over 22 million households (including 1.7 million in Texas) now have broadband connectivity they couldn’t easily have afforded.

However, the ACP’s $14.2 billion allotment is expected to expire near the end of April 2024. Legislation toward additional funding is being considered, but the program’s future is still unclear. So the FCC has begun actions to “wind down” ACP services, starting with a February 7 deadline for new applications.

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Can I Still Apply?

If you’re reading this before February 8 and aren’t currently enrolled in the ACP, think carefully before taking a “now or never” plunge: at this stage, it could prove more trouble than it’s worth. Walter Prescher, BridgingApps Digital Navigator, explains:

“When you apply, you first have to pass a verification system that checks whether you’re receiving certain government benefits, and asks for extra documents if you aren’t. If you don’t get a response verifying that you qualified, you’ll have to call the official help center to find out whether your application was denied, and how to contest a denial. Even after being approved, you need to present an ACP verification code to your internet service provider; and after they verify the code, it typically still takes a full billing cycle before the benefit kicks in.”

In other words, if the ACP ends after April, early-February applicants could struggle through a lot of complicated and frustrating steps for just one monthly credit.

What Current ACP Users Need to Know

If you’re already in the ACP and need that monthly credit, don’t panic: you have time to investigate other options. If the ACP expires with no additional funding or replacement program:

  • Your internet provider is responsible for keeping you updated on how ACP changes will affect your account. (Your first notice should already have arrived, around January 25.)
  • You will also receive updates from the Universal Service Administrative Company, federal administrator of the ACP.
  • You should continue to receive full ACP credit through February, March, and probably April. You may receive partial credit for additional months, depending on when funding actually runs out.   
  • After the FCC confirms a “last fully funded month” for the ACP, your provider will send the details within two weeks.
  • Your bill for the last fully funded month will come with a notice that this is your last month for ACP credit. You will be asked to choose whether you wish to discontinue service, change your plan, or continue service and pay the full cost yourself.
  • Additional notices and offers are at your internet provider’s discretion. You are free to contact them and discuss alternate payment plans.

For more information, see:

See also CNN Business’s report on the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, a bipartisan bill for additional ACP funds. (The full text of the bill is on the U.S. Congress’s website.) And watch for updates on the situation.

Important: Get your updates from well-established channels only. Don’t answer unsolicited ads that offer help replacing broadband credits: fraudulent offers thrive when change is in the air.

What Else You Can Do

It’s not too late to contact your Congressional representatives and request their support for ACP extension. Plus:

  • You can spread the word via social media. (Check out resources from the FCC’s Consumer Outreach Toolkit.)
  • If losing ACP credit would mean editing your budget, a financial coach can help you work out details. (See Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Free Financial Education page.)
  • Again, don’t panic. There are always options.

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