SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)–A pandemic-inspired federal program is helping nearly 17 million Americans access internet services.

The Affordable Connectivity Program began in early 2022, but in tonight’s Your Money Matters, a local provider says more people in KELOLAND could still benefit.

“The ACP benefit is really a partnership with the FCC that helps fund low income households from an internet connectivity perspective,” Bluepeak Director of Customer Experience Ryan Beatty said. “The benefit itself varies in value from $30 a month all the way up to $75 if you live in qualifying tribal lands.”

Bluepeak recently surveyed its ACP customers in South Dakota and southwest Minnesota. More than 93 percent of respondents said they had trouble affording internet before the new program was available. A program that’s paying off in a many ways.

“Better outcomes when it comes to school, better outcomes for professor engagement, being able to apply for financial aid or apply for jobs,” Beatty said.

The federal government came up with the program after COVID to level the playing field for all students and employees. Congress is still discussing whether to renew the program; if more funds are not provided, the ACP benefit will likely end in mid-2024. In the meantime, companies like Bluepeak are trying to get the word out about this option.

“There’s a ton of people who would qualify for that but they just don’t know about it,” Beatty said. “Its a super easy program to qualify for, go right to our website and we’ll help you enroll and find the best option for you.”

If you’re already receiving internet, ACP could lower your bill. It can also help people get connected for the first time.

“People that can’t afford any out-of-pocket expense we’re able to match them to one of our free offerings that partnered with the ACP benefit allows them to get their internet connection for free,” Beatty said.