Having an internet-connected device, such as a tablet is of utmost importance in our modern post-pandemic life. Nowadays, everything is digitalized – work, education, job hunting, information browsing, entertainment, service contacting, and even communication between family members and friends. Many people can afford to buy such devices themselves, however, there are also many citizens all over the U.S., including in California that cannot afford to purchase a tablet or monthly internet services. Luckily, there are some ways to get a free government tablet in California. Let’s find out more.
Can I Possibly Get a Free Government Tablet in California?
California, as well as all other U.S. states, has been offering several government assistance programs to people in need for a long time now. People were able to receive free government food through SNAP, free shelter through SSI, free medical care through Medicaid or Medi-Cal, and even smartphones through the long-lasting Lifeline program. However, it was only recently that a new assistance program was launched that offers discounts on monthly internet services and connected devices.
The program was first launched during the pandemic as the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) but as the importance of having an internet connection and a device grew, the government shortly decided to modify and extend it, launching the new long-term Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
This program offers discounts of up to $30 (or $75 for eligible Tribal households) on monthly broadband services and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase an internet-connected device, such as a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
Since the ACP program has been launched, free government tablets in California (and in other states) are actually available. However, according to government rules, ‘free government tablets’ don’t exactly come free of charge. Instead, you must pay a mandatory fee of more than $10 and less than $50 to receive the device. Still, as most ACP providers offer tablets for only $10.01, the expense is so small that it’s safe to call them free tablets.
How to Receive a Free Government Tablet in California Through ACP
ACP is a government assistance program, as such, it comes with strict rules and procedures. The program is only available for people in need, as such, each applicant must follow an application process that enables the government to thoroughly check whether or not they are eligible for participation. If you wish to receive a free government tablet in California, you must follow these steps:
- Make sure that you qualify for the benefits. Only people in need that meet certain income-based or program participation-based eligibility criteria qualify.
- Make sure you can prove your eligibility. Only by proving it, the government will give you the green light.
- Apply for the ACP program through the National Verifier.
- Find a free government tablet provider in California and apply for its services.
- Enjoy your free tablet and services!
Let’s dive deeper into these steps in the following sections.
How to Qualify for a Free Government Tablet in California Through ACP
The ACP program is available to households in California (and other states) that meet any of the following criteria:
- Households with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. The guidelines depend on the household size. For example, in California, the threshold is set at $29,160 a year for households with 1 member and at $60,000 a year for households with 4 members.
- Households that have received a Federal Pell Grant in the current year.
- Households that participate in other qualifying assistance programs such as Lifeline, SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, SSI, FPHA, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Head Start (only if income qualifies), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
Moreover, to qualify for ACP In California, you must be a resident of the state and at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor.
How to Prove My Eligibility for a Free Government Tablet in California Through ACP
During the application process, you may be asked to provide proof of your eligibility and personal information. Why? Because the National Verifier may not able to verify all the necessary information for ACP eligibility on its own.
You may be required to provide proof of California residency, age or emancipation status, and eligibility based on income or program participation.
- To prove your California residency, you will need an official document that includes your full name and address, such as a valid ID, utility bill, most recent W-2 or tax return, mortgage or lease statement, and so on.
- To prove your age, you will need a document that includes your name and date of birth, such as a valid ID, passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, Permanent Resident Card or Green Card, and so on.
- To prove your emancipation status, you must provide a court document or certificate of emancipation.
- To prove your eligibility based on income, you can provide paycheck stubs, a current income statement from your employer, a prior year’s tax return, a Social Security statement of benefits, an Unemployment or Worker’s Compensation statement of benefits, or another valid official document that includes your full name and income.
- To prove your eligibility based on program participation, you can provide an approval letter, benefit award letter, statement of benefits, benefit verification letter, or another valid official document that includes your full name, the name of the program, the name of the issuing establishment, and an issue date within the last 12 months/a future expiration date.
How to Apply for ACP to Get a Free Government Tablet in California
The institution that checks applicants’ eligibility is the National Verifier. Some ACP companies enable their customers to apply directly through them, as they run your application form through the National Verifier. However, others will require you to first apply through the National Verifier yourself and then apply for the provider’s services. As such, it’s best to first apply through the National Verifier.
You can do so online or via mail. Applying online is faster and your application may get approved instantly. To do so, visit https://nv.fcc.gov/lifeline/?id=nv_flow&ebbp=true&awsl=link-from-how-to-apply. Login or create a new account if necessary. Then, complete the form by providing all the required information and digital copies of your proof documentation.
To apply via mail, you must print out an application form (available at https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/ACP-Application-Form-English.pdf), print out a Household Worksheet (available at https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/lifeline/images/ACP-Household-Worksheet-English.pdf), add physical copies of your proof documentation, and send the papers to ACP Support Center, PO Box 9100, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773.
How to Find an ACP Free Government Tablet Provider in California
Finding an ACP company in your area is easy thanks to the online ACP search tool. Simply visit https://cnm.universalservice.org/, enter your ZIP code or city and state, choose the ACP program, and press Search. Not only will the system generate a list of all the available ACP companies in your area but it will also mark which ones offer discounts on devices (without specifying if the offered device is a tablet or something else). The listed companies will come with contact numbers and links to their official websites, where you can check out each company’s offer in more detail.
That being said, some of the best ACP companies that offer free government tablets in California include:
- AirTalk Wireless (see the company’s offer and apply at https://airtalkwireless.com/)
- Excess Telecom (see the company’s offer and apply at https://www.excesstelecom.com/)
- TruConnect (see the company’s offer and apply at https://www.truconnect.com/)
Applying for ACP benefits at any of these companies may be very advantageous, as these companies offer ACP tablets, ACP internet discounts, and even some Lifeline benefits for eligible customers.
What Kind of a Free Government Tablet and Other ACP Benefits Can I Get in California
The exact kind of ACP tablets and services that you may receive depends on each ACP provider, as each company has a different offer. For instance, some companies only offer ACP monthly services, others offer both ACP service discounts and device discounts, some offer free laptops instead of tablets, and the most generous companies offer both ACP and Lifeline benefits for customers who qualify for both assistance programs. A very generous provider may offer you:
- Free ACP internet services.
- Free Lifeline phone and wireless services with free monthly talk minutes, text messages, and data.
- A free Lifeline smartphone.
- A free (discounted) ACP tablet.
Most ACP companies will not reveal which tablet model you will receive in advance, as the offer depends on availability, plan, and state. Nevertheless, there are certain companies (such as AirTalk Wireless) that do disclose the available tablet models and even allow customers to choose the device that best fits them. Such companies currently offer:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab E
- Apple iPad Air 2
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
- Apple iPad Air
- Apple iPad Mini 3
- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 2020
- KonnectONE Moxee Tablet
- Apple iPad 3
- Alcatel Joy Tab 2
Other Ways to Get a Free Tablet in California
In case you are unable to get a free government tablet in California through ACP, there are still some other ways to get a free tablet. You should try the following:
- Contact a non-profit organization or community group. Companies like California Emerging Technology Fund, PCs for People, Human I-T, Salvation Army, Adaptive.org, EveryoneOn, Causes, Computer Technology Assistance Corps (CTAC), Komputers 4 Kids, Microsoft Registered Refurbished, On It Foundation, and Smartriverside sometimes offer free or discounted tablets for low-income people.
- Check with your local school, library, church, or charity. These institutions also sometimes offer refurbished devices for people in need.
- See if a carrier or retailer offers promotional deals on tablets. Such companies sometimes offer free or discounted tablets, however, they may require you to switch to a provider, add a line, buy a monthly plan, trade in an old device, or buy another device at full price.