GRAND FORKS, N.D. (KXNET) — The Center for Rural Health, at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences, has announced its new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) — an FCC benefit program that aims to help ensure that households can afford broadband internet connection.

Under this new program, those in low-income areas or tribal lands may qualify for discounts on their internet bills and receive aid in buying new pieces of technology to help keep them connected to the world.

“Access to healthcare takes on new meaning in a digital age as we see the importance of broadband for rural and tribal communities to better access healthcare services and health information,” said the acting director of the Center for Rural Health Brad Gibbens in a press release. “The Affordability Connectivity Program is a significant step in leveling the playing field in rural North Dakota. In the 1930s, the federal government invested in creating access to electricity and telephones that significantly improved the lives of rural people, and now through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021, we are again remembering the importance of rural citizens. Rural and tribal populations deserve the same treatment as urban citizens.”

The ACP provides a total discount of up to $30 a month on household internet services and can go up to $75 for households on qualifying tribal lands. It also allows eligible households to receive a one-time discount of up to $100 while purchasing a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet when they contribute $10-$50 towards the purchase.

A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if their household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of these criteria:

  • Has received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program

Additionally, any group qualifies if a member of the household participates in any one of these assistance programs:

  • The National School Lunch/School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision
  • SNAP
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • WIC
  • Veteran’s Pension or Survivor Benefits
  • Lifeline

Individuals who live on qualifying tribal lands and participate in one of these assistance programs are also able to qualify for the discount.

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribal TANF
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Income-Based Tribal Head Start

In order to enroll in the program, interested parties can visit AffordableConnectivity.gov to submit an application online or print out a physical application that can be mailed in. Applicants can then contact their preferred participating provider to select a plan, and then have the discount applied to their bill.

All eligible households must both apply for the program and contact a participating provider to select a service plan, including completing any other alternative applications required by internet providers. The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

A complete list of internet service providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program is available on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.