The internet plays a big role in most people’s lives today. According to Statista, over 90% of people in the United States use the internet, and at least 85.5% of U.S. households have some type of internet subscription. The rest, unfortunately, don’t have access yet.
There are many reasons why many households don’t have internet, including lack of interest, complex location, and more. However, another primary reason involves the lack of affordable connectivity options.
The internet has become one of the most important services to have, especially for housing recipients. Thanks to this service, people can access healthcare, entertainment, and education services in a few seconds. Those looking for job opportunities will also find many opportunities online.
Does affordable housing come with internet? Technically, no. According to the HUD Utility Allowances, services like cable television, telephone, or internet aren’t included, meaning that housing recipients must look for alternatives to get a subscription.
However, some areas like NYC are implementing programs to offer free high speed internet and access to people. According to a statement by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development back in 2021, all new affordable housing paid for by city funds must be set up for high-speed internet for free.
Unfortunately, not everyone will have access to those options, so what alternatives are available? This article will cover everything you must know about internet for low-income housing.
Understanding Affordable Housing Programs
Affordable housing, in general, is a program funded by the federal government, which is for low-income families.
Thanks to affordable housing programs, low-income people can get help to pay rent or their utilities or find more affordable homes. The most common programs found in affordable housing include:
· Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
· Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
· Mortgage Assistance
· Utility Assistance
· Public Housing
· Housing Assistance by Private Entities
As mentioned, the federal assistance programs only cover very low-income families. According to the HUD, housing programs include homes where the person is paying 30% or less of their gross income on total housing.
Even though 30% is the baseline for these programs, the eligibility gets calculated based on the median household income for certain areas. This means that each state and area may have different eligibility requirements.
As of today, here’s what the criteria of eligibility look like for one person, according to their current median income:
· 80% of median income – Low Income
· 50% of median income – Very Low Income
· 30% of median income – Extremely Low Income
People who fall under any of these three categories may file for affordable housing, although whether they get approved or not will depend on the circumstances.
The Need for Internet Access in Affordable Housing
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for internet access has become more critical. In this digital society, people now have access to most of their needs online, including education, entertainment, healthcare, and communications.
Internet access is now crucial for those in affordable housing programs, as it ensures:
· Increased quality of life
· Better access to healthcare
· Better asset management
· Higher efficiency for staff and residency management
· Lower social isolation
· And more
Moreover, internet access helps low-income seniors live in comfort, as they can receive healthcare and social support from many online platforms and resources. This helps in delaying the transition to assisted living facilities, which can be expensive.
Programs and Initiatives Providing Internet Services for Housing Recipients
There are many programs offering internet services affordable or free internet for low-income housing, but which one should you apply to?
Here, we’ll cover two programs for low-income internet provided by the Federal Communications Commission.
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
The ACP is the most known program for affordable internet out there. It helps many low-income families and individuals pay for their broadband internet connection. A great thing about it is that it can get applied to most internet plans out there.
Depending on your plan, this benefit program can provide $30 per month toward your internet bill. People who live in high-cost areas or Tribal land could get up to $75 in support each month.
Some of the most popular internet providers offering ACP plans include:
- Unity Wireless
People eligible for the ACP include those who:
· Got approved for the NSLP or the SBP
· Have received a Pell Grant in this award year
· Are eligible for low-income programs of particular providers
· Qualify for the Lifeline Program
· Participates in Tribal-oriented programs
· Have a total household income equal to 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines
· Get assistance from WIC, SNAP, Medicaid, etc.
As for the application process, all the person must do is submit an application to the Affordable Connectivity Program, and if it gets approved, they have to contact their provider and apply the discount.
This program is for households that:
· Have one member participating in particular public assistance programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, etc.
· Have a total income that is 135% or less than the current Federal Poverty Guidelines
Eligible households can get a monthly discount on their internet or phone bills of up to $9.25. Those in Tribal lands can get a discount of up to $34.25.
To apply for the Lifeline Discount, people must first check if they’re eligible using the criteria above. Then, they must apply online or through:
· Their Internet Company
Those who get approved can either talk to their current provider to apply the discount (if possible) or choose another company that offers the benefit.
Other programs worth considering include:
· Altice Advantage Internet from Optimum: Up to $14.99 per month off the total bill and free installation and Wi-Fi router.
· Xfinity Internet Essentials: Up to $9.95 per month in discounts.
· Internet Assist from Spectrum: Up to $14.99 per month in discounts for 12 months.
Keep in mind that if you apply for both internet-provider programs and the ACP, you could get free service. Check each program’s requirements for more information.
Applying for Internet Programs
The application process will depend on each internet program. Most of these programs ask people to show proof of income or participation in certain programs, as well as the applicant’s personal information.
Proof of income includes things like pay stubs or tax returns, whereas proof of participation in benefit programs will ask for documents like a benefit letter or official paper.
Most of the time, the process to apply for an internet program will be:
· Submit an application to the program.
· Contact the internet service provider to apply the discount or find an approved internet company to set up the service with the benefit.
The best way to submit the application is to go online (which is the case for the ACP). These programs also allow people to use other methods like mail or phone.
Costs and Limitations of Internet Programs
Each program has different limitations. The ACP, for example, is only limited to one monthly service discount and one device per home. On the other hand, Lifeline only allows people to claim either a phone or an internet discount, not both.
As for the internet speed, the limit will depend on which provider or program you enroll in. You’ll get speeds up to 100-300 Mbps with ACP, whereas Lifeline gives you 25/3 Mbps of speed and at least 1024GB of usage per month.
Additional Benefits or Services
The ACP offers many resources to learn about its mission and how to apply. Moreover, you can expect a device discount of up to $100 for qualifying devices.
Lifeline has a “Community Education” website where you can get access to more information about the program. Subscribers could also receive a discount on wireline or wireless devices.
Nationwide Availability and Collaboration
Both the ACP and Lifeline Discount are available in every state, territory, and commonwealth. They’re also available for those living on Tribal lands.
Even though these programs are available nationwide, keep in mind that not all internet providers work with them, so you must check first.
Back in 2022, President Biden worked with 20 internet providers to offer discounts for those eligible for the ACP. These providers offer an extra benefit that allows people to get plans of $30 or less. If a household also applies for the ACP, this means that the people there can get free service.
Having internet access is the key to ensuring better communications, but it’s also a gateway to many work, entertainment, and education opportunities. Housing recipients can thoroughly enjoy the discounts offered in these affordable internet programs, as they can get all the benefits of the digital world without having to worry about the extra expense.
If you’re interested in these affordable internet programs or are eager to look for other options, make sure to take your time and do proper research. You’ll likely find an option that suits your needs.