How to get free internet through AT&T, federal benefit program

·3 min read

AT&T, in conjunction with a new federal benefit program, is offering free internet for eligible households.

This free internet option is a part Access from AT&T, with benefits from the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The Affordable Connectivity Program was launched Dec. 31 by the Federal Communications Commission and will replace the Emergency Broadband Benefit. The EBB was created to temporarily help households afford internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We know that more customers are working from home, especially after the pandemic," said Josh Harris, AT&T director of sales in St. Louis. "We want to be able to provide the fastest internet speed possible to every single customer, regardless of income status, to allow them the flexibility and freedom of being able to work from anywhere."

An AT&T wire technician installs broadband internet to a customer's home. Starting in February, AT&T is offering free internet to eligible households through the Access from AT&T program. This program is supported by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program that provides low-cost internet to households.
An AT&T wire technician installs broadband internet to a customer's home. Starting in February, AT&T is offering free internet to eligible households through the Access from AT&T program. This program is supported by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program that provides low-cost internet to households.

What are the Affordable Connectivity Program benefits?

ACP provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 for those on qualifying Tribal lands, according to the FCC. Those who are eligible can also receive a one-time discount up to $100 for a purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers, if they pay more than $10 and less than $50 toward the device.

Only one monthly service discount and one device discount are allowed per household.

Those who qualify for the ACP also qualify for a $30-a-month plan through AT&T, thus making their internet free once the federal benefit is applied.

To get started, households must confirm they are eligible for ACP benefits and get approved. Once approved, call AT&T at 855-220-5211 to set up a plan.

Customers will see their benefits added within one billing cycle, Harris said.

Who is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

According to the FCC, a household is eligible if a household member meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal Poverty Guidelines

  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC or Lifeline

  • Participates in Trible specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

  • Is approved to receive benefits from the free and reduced-price school lunch program in the 2019-2020, 2020-21 or 2021-2022 school year

  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year

  • Meets the eligibility criteria for participating provider's existing low-income program

To learn more about eligibility, visit the ACP website.

Eligible households can apply online or mail in a paper application to the ACP Support Center.

Harris said approval for the program can take a few minutes to a few days, depending on how much information requires manual review.

Households receiving the Emergency Broadband Benefit do not need to take immediate action.

According to AT&T, those receiving EBB will continue to receive the benefits until March 1. Households may be contacted to reverify eligibility.

The new ACP program does provide different benefits than EBB. The maximum monthly benefit will change from $50 per month to $30 per month, with an exception for households on qualifying Tribal lands, which will remain at $75 per month, according to the FCC.

Those who qualified under the EBB COVID-19 temporary loss of income criteria will need to reverify eligibility under different criteria before March 1. These households received information about taking these steps from the program's administrator or their internet service provider in January.

To learn about participating internet providers, use the ACP Companies Near Me search.

Greta Cross is the trending topics reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @gretacrossphoto. Story idea? Email her at gcross@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Free internet is available through AT&T for eligible households