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Savvy Senior: Tips for finding affordable internet service

Dear Savvy Senior: I was recently notified that the Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes my monthly internet bill, is about to end. What are my options for finding affordable home internet services now? I’m 71 years old and live primarily on my Social Security benefits. — Barely Getting By

Dear Barely Getting By: It’s unfortunate, but without additional funding from Congress, the Affordable Connectivity Program will end in mid-May.

For those who aren’t familiar with this program, the ACP is a government benefit that has provided millions of financially eligible households with a discount of up to $30 per month toward their home internet service, or up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands.

The ACP was born out of a pandemic-era program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit in 2021 and replaced six months later by the longer-term ACP when Congress devoted $14.2 billion to the program as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

More than 23 million households are enrolled in the ACP, which has helped close the digital divide significantly. But the funding is running out.

What to do now?

A good first step in securing affordable home internet services is to contact your provider to find out if they offer other discounts or low-cost services that fit your budget.

If not, you should shop around. The nonprofit organization EveryoneOn has a tool that can help you find low-income discounted internet services from providers in your area. Just go to EveryoneOn.org/find-offers, type in your ZIP code and answer a few questions regarding your household financial situation.

Some cities and states across the country are also offering their own local versions of the ACP to help low-income households pay for internet access. The best way to look for these services is by going to Google and searching for “(your location) internet resources.”

Check Lifeline benefit

If you haven’t already done so, you also need to find out if you’re eligible for the Lifeline program. Unlike the ACP, Lifeline is a permanently funded federal assistance program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy that can help pay your home internet, phone or bundled services (up to $34.25 if you live on tribal lands). Only one benefit is available per household.

To qualify, your annual household income must be at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $19,683 for one person or $26,622 for two. Or you may qualify if you’re receiving certain types of government benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, public housing assistance, veteran’s pension or survivor’s pension benefit, or live on federally recognized tribal lands.

You can apply at LifelineSupport.org, by mail or through your internet or phone provider. Or, if you need assistance, call their support line at 800-234-9473.

Other options

If you find that you aren’t eligible for any of the lower-income services, you may still be able to save on your internet by shopping and comparing. The best way to do this is at websites such as InMyArea.com, which provides a list of internet providers in your area, along with pricing and download speeds. Most providers offer plans under $50 monthly, and you can often find additional discounts for things such as bundling with a cellphone plan or signing an annual contract.

Another way to save money is to buy your own equipment. Most internet service providers charge around $15 per month to rent a modem and router from them. But you can buy your own for as little as $100, which will pay for itself within the first year.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.

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