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Affordable federal internet program underway; 100,000 Hawaiʻi households may qualify

The new federal Affordable Connectivity Program was launched Jan. 1, with an estimated 100,000 Hawaiʻi households eligible to receive its benefits. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiʻi Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which was created in response to COVID-19, took effect Jan. 1 and is designed to modify and extend the existing Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

The new federal program will continue providing discounts on internet service for low-income families statewide. It is funded through the $65 billion Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act passed by Congress in November 2021.  

Currently, more than 17,000 households across Hawai‘i are enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB), providing more than $3 million in benefits locally. It is estimated more than 100,000 Hawai‘i households could qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

“The transition to the Affordable Connectivity Program through the Congress Infrastructure Bill establishes a more permanent program to address the cost of internet services for our local ‘ohana who otherwise may not be able to afford it,” said Burt Lum, Broadband Strategy Officer for the Hawaiʻi Broadband & Digital Equity Office.

“This new, longer-term program brings us another step towards achieving digital equity in Hawaiʻi and most importantly, has the potential to help thousands of kamaʻaina residents have access to the digital world.”

While the purpose of this program remains the same, there are several key changes in the Affordable Connectivity Program: 

  • Currently, the EBB Program provides a $50 discount off internet service bills per month. ACP provides up to $30 a month off internet service bills with continuance of a $75 discount for households on Hawaiian Home Lands. Households who have enrolled in the EBB program by Dec. 31, 2021 will continue to receive their monthly discount until it decreases to $30 a month effective March 1, 2022.
  • In the new ACP, households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level will be eligible, compared to the EBB Program which allowed qualified households with incomes of 135% or less of the federal poverty level.
  • The device credit under the current EBB program will remain the same. Eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating Hawai‘i internet service providers as long as they contribute a minimum of $10 towards the purchase price.
For more information on the Affordable Connectivity Program or to sign up visit www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiʻi DBEDT

Hawai‘i households are eligible to apply for the ACP if one member of the household meets one of the following:

  • Receives benefits from one of the following federal assistance programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
  • Qualifies for participation in the Lifeline program (with the modification the qualifying household income threshold is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of that size)
  • Has been approved to receive school lunch benefits under the free and reduced-price lunch program or the school breakfast program
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program
  • Receives assistance through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

To see the full list of eligibility details and participating Hawaiʻi internet service providers, visit www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers#Hawaii. 

For more information on the Affordable Connectivity Program or to sign up visit www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.

Original source: https://mauinow.com/2022/01/05/affordable-federal-internet-program-underway-100000-hawai%ca%bbi-households-may-qualify/

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