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Ninety percent of households enrolled in the Lifeline or Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) low-income broadband programs say they can’t afford a co-pay, according to a report from the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) based on a survey of Lifeline and ACP recipients. NaLa is an industry trade group focused on the Lifeline and ACP programs.

Both programs are administered by the FCC and provide a discount on communications services for qualifying low-income households. The Lifeline benefit is about $10 a month. The ACP benefit is $30 a month ($75 in tribal areas).

Depending on their service provider, ACP recipients may already have a plan that requires no co-pay, as many providers offer plans that have a price tag of $30 so that service is essentially free when the benefit is accounted for.

Those plans typically are for fixed broadband. But only 2.5% said fixed broadband is sufficient, compared to 43% who said mobile service was sufficient. More than half the respondents would have mobile and fixed services if they could afford both.

The downside of mobile service, though, is that more than 90% of respondents throttle their data usage over the course of a month because they cannot afford to purchase additional service on top of the data caps.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, survey respondents would like to be able to combine both ACP and Lifeline benefits.

Other findings from the survey report, which had 60,000 Lifeline and ACP recipient respondents:

  • Voice, text and data are all essential: While nearly 80% of consumers surveyed value access to voice, text and data equally, consumers indicated making and receiving calls as the most important form of communication.
  • Most Lifeline/ACP subscribers lack access to credit and are unbanked: More than half of Lifeline/ACP subscribers surveyed do not have a debit or credit card or a bank account. 

“Imagine life without mobile wireless access to the internet in 2022. It’s nearly impossible to conceive of how a family could function. But without programs like Lifeline and ACP, many Americans would not have a phone number or an internet connection and would be cut off from society,” David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the NaLA Board said in a press release about the survey.

“NaLA’s survey shows that the majority of Lifeline and ACP recipients live below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This means that our programs are working to bring connectivity to those who need help the most. It is crucial that lawmakers continue to support these programs to ensure that all Americans have affordable access to essential communications.”

The survey was conducted between November 21 and December 8.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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