Several programs are available from the Federal Government and other stakeholders that help make internet service more accessible and cheaper to low-income households. However, free government internet subsidies and low-income internet programs from participating internet service providers (ISPs) can lower your internet bill up to $0 per month. The new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Lifeline program can reduce your monthly cost if you meet the eligibility requirements.

    Moreover, to receive the free government lifeline internet benefit, a low-income household must first apply online, by phone, or by mail. After passing the verification process and getting qualification approval, you must contact a participating wireless service provider. When applying for free government internet, there are hundreds of internet service companies you can sign up for a plan with.

    The first step for getting free government cell phone services is the application process. You can either do it online or in person. In the application process, you must upload some documents regarding your eligibility. These documents include eligibility through program participation or based on your income level. After verification, you will get offered free government cell phone services based on your needs and eligibility.

    About Lifeline Program

    Lifeline is a federal program that spread phone and internet services more affordable for low-income households. However, this benefit offers eligible consumers a monthly discount of up to $9.25. Qualifying households residing on Tribal lands received an enhanced discount of up to $34.25 monthly. Three parties are involved in the program:

    • USAC’s Lifeline Support Center-enables you to apply for the program, know eligibility requirements, and maintain your current benefit via an annual recertification process.
    • Lifeline subscribers– must apply for Lifeline and then enroll with a participating cell phone or internet company, recertify annually, and maintain their information up to date.
    • Phone or Internet company- takes part in enrolling you in the Lifeline program, manages your service, and handles questions concerning your service, cell phone or device, or bill.

    Application for Lifeline Program

    There are two Steps to Getting Lifeline:

    Step 1: Qualify

    You need to confirm whether you qualify for the Lifeline program. You may qualify to receive Lifeline based on your income or participation in a government assistance program. If you reside in Oregon, California, or Texas, check with your phone or internet company or proceed to your state website to identify how to apply for the program.

    Additionally, you can apply for Lifeline online, by mail, or through a cell phone or Internet Company. You require your full name, last 4 digits of your Social Security Number, date of birth or Tribal identification number, and home address.

    a) Online

    Log in or subscribe for a new account to fill out the Lifeline application online.

    b) Contact your phone or internet company

    Contact your preferred phone or internet company for assistance in submitting your application. You can apply through the company’s website if the provider makes that option available.

    c) Mail

    You can print a Lifeline application in English or Spanish. Fill out the Lifeline application and forward copies of your proof documentation to the USAC address.

    However, if you are a person with a disability and need assistance with your Lifeline application, you can contact the Lifeline Support Center at (800) 234-9473.

    Step 2:  Sign Up to Receive Lifeline

    After you qualify, select a phone or internet company near you that provides the Lifeline benefit and enroll for service with them. You can also request your current company to apply your Lifeline benefit to a service you are already obtaining if it provides the Lifeline benefit. After signing up, you will start receiving your Lifeline benefit.

    Notably, to find an internet service provider that provides Lifeline discounts and check your eligibility for the program. Proceed to the Universal Service Administration Co. website. The USAC is part of the FCC that oversees the Universal Service Fund, which funds Lifeline discounts and the Affordable Connectivity Program.

    Qualification For Lifeline Program

    1) Based on Your Income

    You can receive Lifeline if your income is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The guideline depends on your household size and state.

    When applying for Lifeline, you may need to show proof of income, such as a tax return or three consecutive pay stubs.

    2) Based on Programs Like SNAP, Medicaid, or Other Programs

    You can apply for Lifeline if you (or a member of your household) participate in one of the following programs:

    • Medicaid
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
    •  Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

    When applying for Lifeline, you may have to show proof of participation, such as a benefits letter or official document.

    3) Tribal Assistance Programs

    If you reside on Tribal lands, you can obtain Lifeline if your household income equals at or under 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if you (or a member in your household) participate in:

    • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
    • Head Start (only households with the income qualifying standard)
    • Tribal TANF
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
    • Any of the federal sponsored programs mentioned above

    4) Qualify Through Your Child or Dependent

    You can receive Lifeline benefits if your child or dependent participates in any of the programs listed above.

    Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

    The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a newly developed low-income internet program that assists low-income families to afford an internet connection by subsidizing the cost of their internet bill. The ACP offers $30 toward a household’s monthly internet bill.

    Households residing on Tribal land or in high-cost areas qualify for enhanced support of up to $75 per month. However, you may be eligible for the ACP if at least one person in your household attains the following criteria:

    • Qualifies for the Lifeline Program
    • Recipient of the School Breakfast Program (SBP) or National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
    • A beneficiary of a Pell Grant in the current year
    • Is currently qualifying for certain providers’ low-income programs
    • Gets assistance through SNAP or WIC

    Furthermore, the main difference between the Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Programs is the monthly benefit amount. Also, some of the qualifications have changed. Families on WIC qualify for the ACP. The maximum income level for qualifying households has also been increased from 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for Lifeline Program to 200% for the affordable connectivity program.

    Procedure You Can Follow to Get Free Government Internet

    1) Check Eligibility

    It’s time-wasting to initiate the application process for free internet for low-income families if you are not even eligible. Therefore, it is essential first to conduct the eligibility check. You can qualify based on your income or federal-sponsored program participation. To complete the process, you will have to provide some personal information and the relevant documentation.

    2) Eligibility Documents Submission

    Through the participating wireless providers, you will be able to submit eligibility documents. In some cases, you will have to make the copies, while on the other hand, you may require to submit hard copies or scanned ones.

    Prove Your Participation:

    To prove participation in any of the programs discussed above, you must submit a document that includes:

    • Your name or the details of your benefit qualifying person (BQP);
    • The name of the Lifeline-qualifying program, for instance, SNAP;
    • The Federal or Tribal program administrator or the managed care organization (MCO) that gave the document; and
    • Issue date for the last 12 months or a future expiration date matches the benefit period.

    Prove Your Income:

    You have to submit the following documentation to prove income qualification:

    • Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation statement of benefits
    • Federal /Tribal participation notice letter in General Assistance
    • Child support award, divorce decree, or other official document containing income information
    • The last year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return
    • Income statement from your current employer or paycheck stub
    • Social Security statement of benefits

    3) Application Process

    After submitting your application and attaching the relevant documentation, the free government internet provider will take the time to process your application. However, there is an application process, including the online and mail-in applications, to get you started applying for free government internet.

     During the application process, you must give basic personal information such as name, address, date of birth, social security numbers, and other necessary information. Afterward, you will have to submit some eligibility documents to ensure you qualify for free government internet with the Lifeline Program or the ACP. After completing all the above directives, the last step is to wait for a free internet credit to your bill.

    Bottom Line

    Generally, to apply for free government internet, you must meet some eligibility criteria met as the Federal Communication Commission set. Besides, there are documents you need to submit and prove that you are the right person eligible for a free government internet. The wireless free government internet provider may direct you to submit any eligibility documents for the lifeline/ACP program. You can get free internet services if you qualify for Lifeline or the ACP.