900k North Carolinians at risk of losing federal internet discount program

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly 900,000 people in North Carolina benefit from a federal internet discount program, but they could lose access to it if lawmakers choose not to fund it any longer.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a pandemic-era program that received funding in 2021 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It provides discounts to low-income households who struggle to afford reliable high-speed internet.

Since its inception, the Biden administration claims more than 22 million Americans across the country have benefited from it.

The program could now be in trouble. The Federal Communications Commission is anticipating existing funds will run out in April if Congress does not provide additional money for it. That means new and existing enrollees would be forced to pay the full cost of service.

FCC Chairwomam Jessica Rosenworcel is supporting the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, which could provide an additional $7 billion in funding for the ACP.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is connecting millions and millions of households across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created this program, our largest-ever effort to make broadband affordable nationwide, but we now are on the brink of letting that success slip away,” said Rosenworcel. “Disconnecting millions of families from their jobs, schools, markets, and information is not the solution. We have come too far with the ACP to turn back.”

During a trip to North Carolina last month, President Joe Biden touted the importance of his program.

“It really is critical. It’s just as essential today as electricity was a century ago,” said Biden during his remarks at the Abbott Creek Community Center in Raleigh.

Deadline approaching

Despite the potential end in funding, Wake County commissioners are encouraging residents to apply for the program before the application deadline.

“Reliable, affordable high-speed internet access is vital for our residents to work, take classes and pay their bills,” said Chair Shinica Thomas of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “We encourage anyone who is interested in applying for the ACP but has not done it yet to enroll now.”

Anyone interested in applying for ACP needs to sign up by Feb. 7 at 11:59 p.m. You need to be approved and enroll by that deadline to receive the ACP benefit.

Program benefits:

  • Service discount up to $30/month

  • Service discount up to $75/month on qualifying Tribal lands

  • Device discount up to $100 for a qualifying device

How to qualify:

  • You, or your child or dependent are enrolled in government programs like Medicaid, SNAP, WIC

  • If you or anyone in your household already receives a Lifeline benefit

  • If your income is 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines

Click here to learn about how to qualify.

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