Why Affordable Connectivity Programs Are Essential for Rural Communities

Students in rural areas need modern connectivity to complete their digital homework and self-paced learning pursuits. Likewise, adults need broadband to pursue university, community college, and trade and technical school education and career opportunities.

However, these gains could only be recovered if the ACP program is allowed to expire next year.

Access to Information

The Internet is essential for work, education, health care, news and information, telemedicine and other community services, and economic opportunities. It helps farmers stay informed and connect with markets, provides telework opportunities for rural residents, enables children to do their homework online, and empowers citizens to engage with government programs and services.

However, the majority still need to be connected due to high costs. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) addresses this issue by offering a discount on broadband service to eligible families. Its strong rural enrollment suggests that ACP is helping lift the cost burden of broadband for low-income families.

ACP significantly improved the previous generation of programs designed to help people access online information and services, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and Lifeline. While some of these programs have been plagued with privacy and data management issues, new methods for analyzing and integrating data should be explored. By improving data synthesis and accessibility while ensuring privacy, these datasets could be a powerful tool for rural research and policymaking.


Whether for online learning, accessing health services, or completing homework assignments, families with young children in rural America need high-speed Internet. But they also need help paying for it. And that’s why groups are spreading the word about the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to get more low-income households signed up.

Enacted in 2021 as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, ACP equips millions of households with a discount on broadband service. It replaces the earlier Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) and helps households pay for broadband and internet-connected devices.

Households are eligible for the ACP if they participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program; receive SNAP benefits, Medicaid, or WIC; receive a Lifeline benefit; or are members of qualifying Tribal assistance programs. They must also have an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They are limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household. Talk to your provider for more information.


As a critical economic driver, reliable high-speed Internet is essential for rural America. It connects farmers to real-time market data and international markets, helps students stay connected with teachers and peers in virtual classrooms, allows businesses to reach new customers across the country and around the world, provides telemedicine for seniors and veterans, and supports the efforts of rural communities fighting back against the opioid epidemic.

As part of the COVID-19 relief package, Congress enacted the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to help low-income families and households pay for broadband services and devices. Participating internet providers offer eligible households a monthly discount of up to $30 for their service and a one-time subsidy of up to $100 for their devices.

NLC has been working alongside local governments and trusted community organizations to build awareness of ACP, which replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. While the enrollment numbers have been encouraging, more work must be done to increase awareness and enroll eligible households. Visit NLC’s ACP resources for information, consumer fact sheets, and downloadable outreach materials in multiple languages.


The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was created to help low-income Americans get broadband internet at a discount. The program is vital to helping rural America rise out of poverty on its terms. With the program, people would gain important economic opportunities.

The ACP (Affordable Connectivity Program) expands on the emergency broadband benefit established during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable low-income households to afford wired or wireless broadband service and devices. So far, more than 13 million households have benefited from reduced internet bills and the ability to purchase devices.

To promote the integrity of the ACP outreach grant program, broadband providers and their subsidiaries, affiliates, representatives, contractors, or agents are not eligible to participate in the grant program or receive awards as direct recipients or pass-through entities. Because these entities benefit from ACP enrollments, giving them Federal funds to support their outreach efforts creates a clear conflict of interest that compromises the effectiveness of the ACP.


The Affordable Connectivity Program offers low-income households a $30 per month (or $75 on Tribal lands) discount on internet service and an associated one-time discount for a broadband-enabled device. This benefit ensures that families do not have to choose between getting the needed services and paying other bills.

However, the program is only reaching some eligible households. Recent research shows that 2.7 million rural households have no internet connection. Those not subscribing to the Internet often cite cost as the primary reason. This can exacerbate other social and economic disparities, particularly for households of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

To ensure the program reaches all eligible households, the Commission has established the Outreach Grant Program to fund outreach by eligible entities. The Infrastructure Act expressly authorizes the Commission to provide grants to such entities for conducting outreach in support of the ACP. To promote the integrity of this grant program, it is important to note that broadband providers and their subsidiaries, affiliates, representatives, contractors, and agents are not eligible for funding through this grant.