The Affordable Connectivity Program Has Ended—Everything You Need To Know

Find out your next-best options for affordable internet—and get the latest updates on the ACP wind-down

Xfinity
Xfinity Internet Essentials
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    Price: $9.95/mo.
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    Speed: Up to 50Mbps
Verizon
Verizon Forward Program
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    Price: $0/mo. for 6 mos. (then $20/mo.)
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    Speed: 50–100Mbps
Astound Broadband
Astound Broadband Internet First
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    Price: $0/mo. for 3 mos. (then $9.95-$19.95/mo.)
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    Speed: 50–150Mbps
Spectrum
Spectrum Internet Assist
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    Price: $24.99/mo.
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    Speed: Up to 50Mbps
Cox
Cox Connect2Compete
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    Price: $9.95/mo.
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    Speed: Up to 100Mbps
Kelly Huh
Jun 04, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

Now that the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is ending, 23 million households in the United States that received a federal discount on monthly internet now have to pay more—and some may face losing internet access entirely.

“The program is like a digital lifeline, especially for Tribal communities living in technological deserts,” says Joshua Arce, Native Leader, CEO, and President at Partnership With Native Americans and member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. “It’s crucial to continue funding the ACP to foster digital literacy and skills for millions of people.”

Unless Congress saves the day with additional funding, the ACP will end after May 2024. Households enrolled in the program prior to February 7, 2024 are now getting smaller discounts as remaining funds run out.

But it’s not all grim—read on to learn about the best internet plans from providers that have their own programs for low-income households, as well as what you can expect now that the program is ending.

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What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal program that provides low-income households monthly discounts up to $30/mo. ($75/mo. for those living on tribal lands) to assist with paying for broadband internet services. The federal benefit program also provides a one-time $100 discount off of a device such as a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.

The ACP started in 2021 with funding totalling $14.2 billion. It replaced the Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund established during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep households connected. Unfortunately, the ACP will end after May 2024 due to funds running out.

For millions of people in the United States, the end of the program is not just a hit to their budget, but also a barrier to participating in work, school, and essential services.

“I was just listening to a young lady talk about her ability to run an online business with the ACP and her concerns with the program ending,” Arce says. “ACP being discontinued will have an adverse revenue impact on families currently struggling, but it will go beyond that. The impact will also be multi-generational; it affects the entire household.”

Best internet plans for low-income households

Individual providers have their own discounted programs for qualifying low-income households. As a rule of thumb, aim to get at least 100Mbps for speed, which is the federal standard baseline to support streaming video, music, gaming, and working from home in a small or midsized household. Larger households likely need higher speeds.

Best low-income internet plans

Program
Price
Download speed
Data cap
Who qualifies
Details
Access from AT&T
Up to $30.00/mo.
Up to 100MbpsUnlimitedNew customers and enrolled in SLP, SNAP, SSI for California residents, or income below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
Verizon Forward Program
As low as $20.00/mo. Currently, there is a promo where you get the first 6 months for free.
300–940MbpsUnlimitedReceived a Federal Pell Grant within a year prior to application, qualified for Lifeline, SNAP, Medicaid, or WIC
Optimum Advantage Internet
$14.99/mo.
Up to 50MbpsUnlimitedNew customer and eligible for NSLP, New York City resident and attends a New York City public school, eligible for SSI and 65 years of age or older, or Veteran receiving public assistance
Spectrum Internet Assist
$24.99/mo.
Up to 50MbpsUnlimitedRecipient of NSLP, CEP of the NSLP, or SSI
Cox Connect2Compete
$9.95/mo.
Up to 100Mbps1,280GBAt least one K-12 Student in household and enrolled in at least one government assistance program
Xfinity Internet Essentials and Essential Plus plans
$9.95–$29.95/mo.
Up to 50–100Mbps1,200GBQualify for government assistance programs (including SNAP and Medicaid)
Mediacom Xtream Connect
$28.99/mo.*
Up to 100MbpsNo downstream usage limits Qualify for government assistance programs (including SNAP and Medicaid)
Astound Broadband Internet First
$9.95-$19.95/mo. 3 Months Free.
50-150Mbps Students under federal assisted aid programs or recipient of NSLP, housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI

*Households that have at least one child that qualifies for free or reduced-price school lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) can have the modem monthly rental fee waived, a $14 value. Rental fee is also waived if the customer uses their own network compatible modem.

Regional discounted internet programs for low-income households

In addition to the providers we recommend above, the White House has highlighted regional providers committed to providing discounted services for eligible low-income households until the end of 2024.

President Biden continues to call on Congress to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program. While there aren’t any updates yet, the Biden-Harris Administration has made a $90 billion investment split into programs that aim to increase access to high speed internet and devices.

How do you save money on internet? We can help

At Reviews.org, we have lots of expert advice on how to get affordable internet that’s still fast and reliable. Here’s a rundown of comprehensive guides we’ve put together that highlight low-cost internet options.

What’s the current status of the ACP?

Earlier in 2024, the Federal Communications Commission announced a wind-down period to manage the remaining funds. Here’s a rundown of the timeline:

February 7, 2024: The program stopped accepting applications.

March 2024: Internet service providers sent notices to enrolled customers about upcoming changes to the ACP. Customers were given the option to opt-in to continue their plan at full cost, switch plans, or cancel their plan.

April 2024: Households that were already enrolled in the program received the full ACP discount on their monthly internet service bill until the end of April.

May 2024: ACP customers began receiving only partial discounts as the program was no longer fully funded.

What’s next: There are multiple ACP funding bills moving through Congress to extend the program, but there hasn’t been any news yet of a confirmed extension.

The end of the ACP widens the digital divide

Education is a key area where internet access is a necessity. According to our Homework Gap Report, only 27% of students under age 18 without high-speed internet connection go on to complete a postsecondary program (e.g. college), compared to 96.66% of those who do have high-speed internet access.

Jenny Young, founder and CEO of Brooklyn Robot Foundry, an educational program in New York City, believes that accessible internet enhances children’s learning opportunities. “With increased internet access, students can explore their interests, pursue their passions, and develop the digital literacy skills necessary for success in our increasingly connected world,” Young says.

The ACP has made a major difference to not just individual students, but also to wider school communities.

“Through ACP, educators had a reliable digital conduit to students that would not only help them to remain better connected to students, but also help the students to become better immersed in a highly competitive digital world," says Natalie Greaves, a marketing professional in Queens, New York, who saw how the ACP helped keep kids connected at her daughter's combined elementary and middle school.

The federal Lifeline program is still active

While the end of the ACP is anxiety inducing, you can still save on your internet bill through the Lifeline Support Program, a federally funded monthly discount that supports qualifying low-income families in accessing high-speed internet. Although the discount is significantly smaller than the ACP, it’s worth a shot to reduce your bills with this ongoing program.

Lifeline Support Program

Program
Benefit
Who qualifies
Details
Lifeline Support$9.25 off per monthIncome is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines or use SNAP, Medicaid, or other programs
Enhanced Lifeline Benefits for Tribal Lands$34.25 off per monthIf you live on Tribal lands and your income is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or participate in federal or Tribal assistance programs

Quick ways to save on your internet bill

To stretch your dollar even further, run a search with your zip code to see if you can find other affordable internet options in your area.

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Find cheap internet options.

You can make other small fixes and adjustments to lower your monthly bill too. Here’s a rundown of what you can do to lower your Wi-Fi bill.

  • Sign up for a slower internet plan to lower the price.
  • Look for promotions and deals offered by your internet provider.
  • Buy your own modem and router rather than renting equipment from your provider.
  • Bundle your internet with a mobile phone plan for a discounted rate.
  • Negotiate with customer service to get promo prices or other deals.
  • Switch to a cheaper internet provider (fiber and 5G are best).
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Kelly Huh
Written by
Kelly Huh
Kelly Huh is a journalist who covers internet service providers for Reviews.org. Originally from New Zealand, Kelly bought a one-way ticket to America to study at Brigham Young University, where she graduated with a BA in Communications. Since college, Kelly has gone on to write and edit featured content for technology companies in the Economist, Forbes, Vox, Bloomberg Green, and industry trade publications.

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