KentuckyWired was a major step in the right direction for Eastern Kentucky. This statewide middle-mile broadband program has helped make the internet more accessible for millions of residents.
But the work doesn’t stop here.
32% of people throughout SOAR’s 54 counties in Eastern Kentucky don’t have an active internet subscription. That’s 10% above the national average.
In some of these cases, it’s a last-mile infrastructure issue. But for many households, cost is the limiting factor.
This has to change.
Local, county, and statewide efforts are underway to implement last-mile projects that aim to close coverage gaps and increase affordability. In the meantime, two Federal Communications Commission (FCC) programs can help more Eastern Kentucky residents afford to get online.
Find out how the Affordable Connectivity Program and the Lifeline Program can defray broadband costs and achieve our connectivity goals for the region.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
It provides discounts to qualified households so they can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare, and social connection.
The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households.
The program also enables a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase equipment. Participants may select a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. They must contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
Who is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Residents may be eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Consult this chart to determine whether your household qualifies based on income. As of 2022, a household of 1 in Kentucky cannot make more than $27,180 to participate in the ACP. A family of 4 can’t make more than $55,500.
Other eligibility factors include meeting at least one of the following criteria:
- Received a Pell Grant for college studies in the last year
- Already involved with a low-income internet program from a local provider
- Participates in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program
- Receives SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC benefits
- Is on a veterans pension or receive survivor benefits
- Already participates in Lifeline
How to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program
ACP asks qualified applicants to complete two steps.
First, visit connect with our Office of Digital Equity.
Applicants will need to prove that they meet the requirements. Our team is ready to help you through this process.
The second and final step is to contact the internet provider and select a service plan. if you already have service, you’ll provide your account information to receive a credit on your existing bill. This may sound like a lot, but our team is here to help you navigate this process.
Unfortunately, not all service providers participate in the program. Check the ACP website for a current list of participating internet providers in Eastern Kentucky.
Once these 2 steps are complete, the monthly service bill will reflect the $30 program discount.
Sometimes, internet service providers offer low-income internet access for $30/month. Combined with an ACP benefit, this means internet access is free. Check out the participating providers and explore this option if it covers your town or county.
What is the FCC Lifeline Program?
The FCC Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers began as a program in 1985 to help residents access phone service.
Today, the program has evolved to include mobile and fixed broadband access to qualified households. 10 million Americans use Lifeline to stay connected.
As of December 2021, Lifeline provides:
- 1000 voice call minutes
- 3G mobile data (up to 4.5 GB)
- 25/3 fixed broadband (up to 1,229 GB)
- $5.25/month for voice call support
- $9.25/month for broadband support
Residents may receive one Lifeline discount per household on either a wired or wireless service, but not both.
Who’s eligible for the FCC Lifeline Program?
Qualifying for Lifeline is similar to ACP — households eligible for one program are likely to qualify for both.
Participation in the ACP, SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Head Start creates eligibility.
Household income at or below 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines is another qualifier.
How to apply for Lifeline
Start by visiting the program website.
The first step is to prove eligibility. This process includes creating an account, uploading relevant documentation identifying your income or existing program enrollments, then submitting for review.
Once approved, the next step is to select a phone or internet service provider. Participants must complete this within 90 days of approval. Often, most providers participating in ACP will also participate in Lifeline.
From here, all it takes is signing up for phone or internet service. The discount will come out of each monthly bill.
Lifeline participants must recertify annually to prove they’re still eligible for the program. They will receive advance notice and ample time to do so.
How can Eastern Kentucky leaders help more residents get online?
Affordability is a significant barrier for many Eastern Kentucky residents who wish to access the internet. These FCC benefit programs can help address this issue. But, it’s likely many residents in your communities aren’t yet aware of their options.
An easy step you can take today is to help spread the word. The Affordable Connectivity Program offers community outreach resources to help, including social media graphics, brochures, and flyers. The Lifeline program website includes links to newsletters and webinars with helpful information.
Start by printing out brochures and flyers and posting them in community gathering centers. Create social media messages with relevant information and links to apply. Make sure residents understand that they may be eligible for both programs.
But awareness is just the first step. Consider setting up a booth at community fairs and events to educate residents about their options and help them start the application process.
Your support and encouragement can make a big difference. The benefits of getting online include increased median incomes, more accessible medical care, and broader career options.
We can’t wait — helping more Eastern Kentuckians get online is crucial for their opportunities and the health of our region.
Conclusion: Let’s get Eastern Kentucky online
Leaders throughout Eastern Kentucky are working hard to improve economic outcomes for our residents.
Broadband expansion is at the core of these efforts. And as infrastructure projects come online, we have to help residents take full advantage of the new opportunities available to them.
Prioritizing high-speed broadband projects and affordability is one of the most important actions you can take for your town or county.