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Apr 30, 2024

The 'Affordable Connectivity Program' expires at the end of the month | Here's what enrolled Mainers should know

Congress has yet to approve additional funding; all qualified households will lose their monthly internet bill discounts at the end of April, some in May.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Affordable Connectivity Program rolled out earlier this year and allowed qualified households to benefit from discounted internet bill payments.

Most households were able to benefit from a $30 per month discount and those living on tribal lands qualified for a $75 per month discount. Congress approved $14.2 billion for the program in which 23 million households across the country enrolled, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Eligible households also qualified for a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a new laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.

In Maine, 98,000 homes took advantage of the program.

“And that’s just a sign of all the folks who want to be able to have internet access, right? Their kids want to be able to do their homework at home, or the grandparents need to be able to do their health appointments online so that they don't have to go out and about in the winter," Jessica Perez, digital equity manager with the Maine Connectivity Authority said.

This post-Covid program was launched with the understanding that more people are working or studying from home, Perez explained.

Enrolled Mainers probably saw plenty of reminders from their internet providers about the program winding down in recent months.

Most people will lose their discounted payments at the end of April, while some will qualify for some relief for their May bill payments, then the program will run out of funding, according to the FCC.

The FCC created a fact sheet to answer any questions. You can find that information here. Information is also provided in Spanish.

If you are about to lose out on those discounts, Perez said you have a few options. First, you can stick to your current internet plan and pay full price, you can ask your service provider if they have a low-cost plan, or switch to another provider that offers a better plan based on your needs.

Qualified households may also be eligible for the FCC's lifeline program which offers up to $9.25 a month off phone, internet, or bundled phone and internet service. You can apply to that program here. However, not all ACP recipients qualify for that program and not every internet provider participates.

While there is uncertainty if Congress will approve more funding, Perez said the Maine Connectivity Authority is currently working to build up the state's internet infrastructure.

Perez said they are working across the state to see who is already connected to the internet and what areas need more assistance.

“It’s so important to make sure that everyone can have the connection that they need, as well as the skills that they need, the devices that they need, and the support to make sure that they can do all the things that they want to do", Perez added. "Those are things that we want to make sure everyone in Maine has access to.”

The MCA is implementing a "State-Led Challenge Process" to create an accurate map of locations where $272 million of Broadband Equity Access and Deployment, or BEAD, funding can be allocated, according to the organization's website.

Tribal governments, non-profits, or internet service providers are also eligible to weigh in during the process that will continue until May 21.

Individuals can help the MCA by participating in a "speed test." You can find more information about that here.

Our National Verify Team also answered some questions related to the end of the ACP.

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