We research all brands listed and may earn a fee from our partners. Research and financial considerations may influence how brands are displayed. Not all brands are included. Learn more.

Published: Mar 26, 2024 7 min read
Photo illustration of a cut out of a Wifi symbol with hundred dollar bills in the background
Money; Getty Images

In the coming weeks, internet bills for more than 20 million low-income Americans are set to increase as a federal subsidy program winds down — and many households could lose broadband access entirely if they can’t afford a plan without the discount.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that it's running out of money for its Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, a federal internet subsidy created by a $14 billion investment from the bipartisan infrastructure deal in 2021. The law also provided $65 billion to build broadband infrastructure in rural communities across the country.

The ACP provides discounts of $30 per month (or $75 to homes on certain tribal lands) to low-income households. Following the announcement of the program and negotiations from the White House, several internet providers created new plans that cost $30 per month, essentially making broadband free for scores of participants.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
If you owe over $10,000 in debt, a Debt Relief Program may be able to help get you back on your feet more quickly.
Select your state to begin applying for Accredited's debt relief program.
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
Get Started

In early February, the program stopped accepting new applicants due to dwindling funds, and the FCC says the final month for enrollees to receive the full subsidy will be April. Some households may get a partial discount in May.

If you’re enrolled in the ACP, your internet service provider is required to contact you several times with clear explanations about how your bill and internet plan will be affected. The FCC says providers should have already sent out two notices — one in January and one last week.

Still, the nonprofit internet advocacy organization Everyone On recommends that you “keep track of your monthly statements to make sure your provider does not raise your rate before the ACP expires at the end of April 2024.”

Could the Affordable Connectivity Program be extended?

It is possible that the ACP could continue if Congress appropriated additional funding. If that were the case, applications would ostensibly reopen, as well.

The program is popular among Democrats and Republicans alike. In January, a bill to infuse the ACP with an additional $7 billion was introduced in both chambers of Congress with broad bipartisan support. However, it has not come to a vote or received much attention since then.

As the deadline draws closer, many advocates and lawmakers are sounding the alarm that millions of Americans are at risk of losing their internet access entirely if Congress doesn’t act soon.

"This potential lapse in funding will jeopardize millions of Americans’ affordable access to a reliable, high-speed internet connection," wrote more than two dozen U.S. senators in a recent letter to Congressional leaders.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
If your debt is legit, a Debt Relief company could be a good option to help you pay it.
If you owe $15,000 or more in debt, Accredited can help you lessen the amount you owe and make managing your debt easier.
Get Started

What to do if the ACP ends

Here are your options for staying connected even if the ACP ends.

Stay in contact with your ISP

As the ACP winds down, you should be on the lookout for communications from your internet service provider. They are supposed to keep you informed about your discounts for the coming months and your options for internet access after the ACP formally ends.

Some providers have other low-cost internet plans that they may be able to switch you over to.

Know your rights

Even though the program may soon be ending, internet providers are required to follow a handful of rules and regulations to make the transition as easy as possible for you.

  • No cancellation fees: The FCC says that providers are not allowed to charge any cancellation fees to ACP enrollees if they want to to end their internet plan before the contractual end date — even after the ACP expires. Similarly, during the wind-down process, you can’t be charged a fee to change plans to another provider or a new plan with the same company.
  • They cannot shut off your internet immediately: Internet providers aren't allowed to shut off your internet — or threaten to do so — if you can’t immediately make your first bill payment once the program ends. They can’t cut your internet access until 90 days have passed since your bill’s due date.
  • Your provider must let you know how the end of the ACP will affect your bill: As mentioned above, internet providers are legally required to send you at least three alerts about the ACP ending. They must clearly lay out the date of your last bill that includes the full ACP discount and let you know if you will receive any partial discount in May.
  • File a complaint with the FCC: If your provider isn’t honoring your rights under the ACP, the FCC has a dedicated complaint process to help you. If it’s a billing or service issue, the FCC forwards your complaint directly to your provider and they have 30 days to respond.

Consider alternative programs

Get familiar with your options to stay connected before the ACP runs out of money.

  • Federal Lifeline internet benefits: The ACP program is modeled after a longstanding internet subsidy called Lifeline Support. This program discounts internet and phone plans by $9.25 per month, or $34.25 for homes on tribal lands. To qualify, your income can’t exceed 135% of the federal poverty line (which is currently $19,683 for singles in most states). Alternatively, you can qualify if you receive SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or federal public housing benefits.
  • Other affordable internet plans: Several multi-state internet providers run low-cost programs. The nonprofit Everyone On has a useful database that shows you your low-cost options based on your ZIP code. For instance, Xfinity (aka Comcast) has an Internet Essentials plan in several states for $9.95 per month if you receive many of the federal benefits that qualify you for ACP or Lifeline. AT&T has a similar program for $30 per month.
  • Commonly discounted plans: Several major companies, such as Verizon, AT&T and Spectrum, provide discounts to military, nurses, teachers, first responders, students and other specific groups.

If these discounts or benefits don't apply to you and you're struggling to afford your bill after the ACP expires, you may have luck negotiating with your internet provider for a cheaper price.

More from Money:

6 Places Giving Free Money to Residents Through Guaranteed Income Programs

How to Get Access to the IRS's New Free Tax Software

When Social Security Recipients Will Get Their Checks in March

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.Ad
If you owe over $10,000 or more, Accredited can help you get back on your feet!