Internet subsidy increased to $75/mo. for people living in ‘hard to serve’ areas

Robin Layton

Aug 4, 2023 — 3 min read

Internet companies must prove that providing internet to certain areas costs more than the $30/mo. benefit provided by the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Rural kids on a farm with a tablet.

Editor’s note: The Affordable Connectivity Program will stop accepting new applications on Feb. 8, 2024. You must be approved and enrolled with an internet service provider by 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb 7 to get the benefit. (02/01/24).

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides internet customers with a $30/mo. subsidy (or credit) on their internet bill, with the promise from internet service providers (ISPs) that they will offer a high-speed internet plan at $30/mo., making a qualified person’s internet service free.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is increasing that to $75/mo. for internet service in high-cost and hard-to-serve areas, similar to the $75/mo. for anyone living on qualifying Tribal lands.

The burden of proof is on the internet service provider (ISP) to show that “the standard $30 monthly benefit would cause them to experience ‘particularized economic hardship’ such that they would be unable to maintain part or all of their broadband network in a high-cost area.”

According to the FCC, “the order is expected to incentivize providers to participate in the ACP or remain in the ACP in rural and insular areas, further narrowing the digital divide.” The hope is that this will also encourage rural broadband build-out

The provider must submit this proof annually, as well as provide advance notice and a transition path for ACP consumers if the provider no longer qualifies for the subsidy.

It wasn’t addressed in the report exactly what will be considered a high-cost, hard-to-serve area.

About the Affordable Connectivity Program

Launched in early 2022, the ACP is designed to help get everyone online. The $30/mo. high-speed plans offer a minimum of 100 Mbps download speed, which is fast enough for a family of four to video conference, stream videos and more.

To be eligible for these plans, households must be enrolled in the ACP. You can claim that benefit and apply for a high-speed plan from a participating provider in one place:

Low-enrollment for free internet program

About six months after the program’s start, the FCC reported that only 14 million of 48 million eligible households had signed up for the free internet benefit.

This spurred the agency to kick off the “Your Home, Your Internet” campaign to spread the word and provide registration help where needed. 

By April 2023, the amount of people receiving the benefit increased to 17 million. The FCC announced then that they continue to enhance the process, “Our focus on simplifying the applicant’s experience will help get affordable internet to more households, ensuring families can do their homework, work from home, and access critical government services,” said U.S. Digital Service Deputy Administrator Cori Zarek.

Future unclear for ACP internet funding

The $30/mo. subsidy program was started with the adoption of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which provided the $14.25 billion to fund the ACP. That funding will run out in 2024, potentially leaving millions without internet and setting back the struggle to close the digital divide.

Low-cost internet options

For people who don’t qualify for the ACP, there are ISPs that offer cheap internet plans, including:

There are other programs, both from the federal government (Lifeline) and ISPs, that offer affordable internet options.

With eight million people still without internet access in the U.S., the current administration released more grant funds for broadband expansion. The goal is “Internet for All” by 2030.

Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site … Read more