Navigating the end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can be daunting, but our comprehensive guide provides clarity and actionable steps. With key deadlines approaching, such as the enrollment cutoff on February 7, 2024, it’s essential to understand how these changes affect you. Whether you’re a current participant or considering enrollment, our guide offers insights on the wind-down process, benefits transfer, and what to expect post-ACP.
How to Apply for the ACP (Before February 7th!)
Time is ticking, so here’s a step-by-step guide to applying for the ACP before the deadline:
Check Eligibility: Visit GetInternet.gov and answer a few simple questions to see if you qualify.
Choose an ACP Provider: Many internet service providers (ISPs) participate in the program. Compare plans and discounts offered by different providers in your area.
Submit Your Application: You can apply online at GetInternet.gov or through your chosen ISP. You’ll need to provide proof of eligibility, such as your tax return or a SNAP statement.
Wait for Approval: Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the ACP administrator. This process usually takes a few weeks.
Enjoy Discounted Internet and (Potentially) a Free Tablet: If approved, you’ll start receiving your monthly internet discount and may be eligible for a free tablet from your chosen provider.
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Wind-Down Process
The FCC has marked February 8, 2024, as the start of an enrollment freeze for the ACP. This pivotal moment brings a slew of procedural changes, notably in customer notifications, claim submissions, and advertising norms. These modifications are crucial for both service providers and customers to understand, as they will shape the program’s operations in the coming months.
Key Takeaways and Dates
- Funding Projection: The FCC foresees ACP funds drying up by May 2024, making April the last fully funded month.
- Enrollment Deadline: February 7, 2024, is the cut-off for new enrollments or re-enrollments.
- Enrollment Freeze Commencement: The program will stop accepting new subscribers from February 8, 2024.
- Notice Schedule: Service providers must send a series of notices to subscribers, starting January 25, 2024.
- Claims Process: An expedited claims process will begin in February.
Anticipated End of ACP
In a situation where additional appropriations are not secured, the FCC will announce the ACP’s termination approximately 60 days before the end of the last fully funded month, likely by late February 2024. This announcement will be a critical signal for both providers and customers to prepare for the next steps.
Customer Enrollment and Benefit Transfer
The opportunity for new ACP sign-ups concludes on February 7, 2024. However, customers can still transfer their ACP benefits to other providers during the freeze period, given certain conditions. This flexibility is vital for consumers looking to maximize their benefits during the program’s twilight.
Connected Device Benefits
Even during the enrollment freeze, eligible consumers can still claim the one-time connected device benefit. This provision remains a significant advantage for those needing to purchase supported devices.
Customer Notification Process
ACP providers must inform their customers about the ACP’s impending conclusion through a series of notifications. These include:
- First Notice: By January 25, 2024, informing of potential program termination.
- Second Notice: Within 15 days of the FCC’s end announcement, detailing the termination date and billing changes.
- Third Notice: Concurrent with the last bill cycle where full ACP benefits apply, echoing the second notice’s information.
Post-ACP Service Continuation
To continue receiving services post-ACP, customers need to demonstrate their willingness and ability to pay the non-ACP rates. Providers must obtain explicit consent from customers before transitioning them to higher rates.
Changes in ACP Promotion and Advertising
During the enrollment freeze, ACP providers are relieved from their obligation to publicize the ACP, notify new internet service consumers about the ACP, or conduct awareness campaigns. This shift reflects the program’s transition and focuses on managing existing resources.
Provider Claims Process During Wind-Down
The claims process for providers will see significant changes. Starting February 1, 2024, claims must be submitted promptly, with a deadline of the first day of the second month following the snapshot date. This expedited process ensures that providers can reconcile their accounts efficiently.
Funding and Payment in the Final Month
Should claims exceed available funds in the last month, providers will be compensated on a reduced pro-rata basis. The FCC plans to give prior notice of the available partial payment amount and the expected pro-rata percentage. Providers have the discretion to continue offering ACP services during this period.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the ACP Wind-Down Process
What happens to my current ACP benefits after the enrollment freeze starts on February 8, 2024?
Your current ACP benefits will continue as usual until the program officially ends. This means you will still receive the same discounts on your internet service and can use your one-time device benefit if you haven’t already. However, no new enrollments will be accepted after February 7, 2024, and you won’t be able to re-enroll if you exit the program during the freeze period.
If I’m eligible for the ACP but haven’t enrolled yet, what should I do before the February 7, 2024 deadline?
If you’re eligible and haven’t enrolled in the ACP yet, it’s crucial to do so before the February 7 deadline. Start by checking your eligibility and gather any required documents. Then, find a participating service provider and complete the enrollment process with them. Acting promptly ensures you don’t miss out on the benefits before the enrollment freeze.
Can I change my internet service provider (ISP) after the enrollment freeze begins, and how will it affect my ACP benefits?
Yes, you can change your ISP even after the enrollment freeze begins. Your ACP benefits, including the discount on your internet service, can be transferred to the new provider if they participate in the ACP. Ensure you communicate with your current and prospective providers about the transfer to avoid any service disruptions.
How will I be notified about the end of the ACP, and what information will these notifications contain?
You will receive at least three notices from your service provider regarding the end of the ACP. The first notice, which should be received by January 25, 2024, will inform you about the possibility of the program ending. The second notice, following the FCC’s announcement of the ACP’s end, will provide details like the termination date and changes in billing. The final notice will coincide with the last billing cycle with full ACP benefits and will reiterate the key points of the second notice.
What are my options for internet service once the ACP ends, and how can I prepare for the transition?
Once the ACP ends, you’ll have several options:
- Continue with your current service provider at their standard rates. Ensure you communicate with your provider about your intentions and understand the new rates.
- Explore other low-cost internet options in your area. Many providers offer affordable plans for low-income households.
- Look into other government programs offering internet and technology assistance.
To prepare for the transition, review your budget and internet needs, and research alternative plans and programs well in advance. This proactive approach will help you find the best solution after the ACP concludes.