Under a federal program inspired by the pandemic, eligible U.S. households can apply for internet plans that cost $30 per month — with those already enrolled in a federal affordability program able to access essentially free services.
Nearly 3 million households — roughly 7 million Texans — have little to no internet access, according to the Texas Broadband Development Office.
An estimated 180,000 households lack the infrastructure or cannot afford to pay for high-speed internet in Harris County — 12 percent of all 1.5 million households, according to the county’s Office of Broadband.
However, the federal Affordable Connectivity Plan has not been widely advertised, especially in Texas, Harris County Office of Broadband Manager John Speirs said.
Speirs said his office, established in the aftermath of the pandemic, has been desperately trying to get county residents to sign up for the program.
“The program is the north star of broadband equity and access, and we’re trying to get those households that are eligible for ACP to enroll,” he said. “But it’s hard to access. Plus, the sign up process is clunky.”
Here’s how to verify if your household is qualified and how to sign up.
Do I qualify for federal internet subsidies?
Households with at least one family member enrolled in a number of government programs can qualify for federal internet subsidies.
Those programs include: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, housing assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
That eligibility also extends to anyone who receives free and reduced-price school lunches, or a Pell Grant.
You can access a comprehensive list of eligible programs under the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity program tab on their website.
Qualifying households can also receive a discount of up to $100 on a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from certain providers.
All of these internet options are high-speed broadband connections of at least 100 megabytes per second — fast enough for at least four people to independently stream a Netflix show, hop on a Zoom call or play online video games.
How can I sign up?
The easiest way to sign up for the federal connectivity program, and potentially additional subsidies, is to visit getinternet.gov.
Once an application is approved, you can contact a participating internet service provider to choose the appropriate plan and apply your discount to that plan.
While the Biden administration negotiated an arrangement with 20 specific internet providers to offer $30 plans that would be free when an ACP discount is applied, there are more than 1,300 providers that accept the ACP benefit.
To determine how much a certain provider will cost you per month, you can search this tool to find out what services each provider offers, broken down by ZIP code or city.