The government is taking steps to bridge the digital divide by providing free tablets to students. With the pandemic forcing many schools to switch to online learning, access to technology has become more critical than ever. The government initiative aims to ensure that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, have access to the tools they need to succeed academically. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the eligibility requirements and how students can apply for this program.
Which Assistance Program is Offering Free Tablets for Students from the Government and Why?
Not long ago receiving a free tablet for students from the government was a utopian wish. Surely, the government has been providing low-income people in need with basic medical coverage, food supply, and even cell phones, however, getting a tablet was an impossibility.
However, during the pandemic, the need for a reliable internet connection and a device that can connect to the internet became painfully obvious. Education, work, entertainment, and even socializing with friends moved online. As a result, the government (or the FCC) launched the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which soon got modified and extended into the long-term Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
The ACP program is a recent program designed to help bridge the digital divide and provide all citizens with equal opportunities in life. The program offers a discount of up to $30 (or $75 for qualifying Tribal households) on monthly internet services and one-time discounts of up to $100 to purchase an internet-connected device, such as a tablet (most often), a laptop, or a desktop computer. However, while the phrase ‘free government tablet’ is quite common, the device you receive through the ACP is not completely free of charge. Instead, due to government rules and regulations, you must pay a mandatory fee of more than $10 and less than $50 to get the device. Still, as a free tablet is often offered for just $10.01, it’s safe to call it a ‘free’ device.
Why Would a Student Need a Free Tablet from the Government?
Students may need free tablets for various reasons, such as:
- Access to educational resources: With the help of a tablet, students can easily access educational resources, such as e-books, online courses, educational videos, and other learning materials.
- Communication and collaboration: Tablets can help students communicate and collaborate with teachers, classmates, and peers, allowing them to share notes, assignments, and other important information.
- Flexibility and convenience: Tablets are portable and lightweight, making them an ideal tool for students who need to study on the go or in different locations.
- Cost-saving: Tablets can be a cost-effective solution for students who cannot afford a traditional laptop or desktop computer, especially when they can get a tablet for free from the government.
How to Get a Free Tablet for Students from the Government
Obtaining a free government tablet may seem like a great opportunity, but not all students are eligible for this benefit. Strict rules and a specific process must be followed in order to receive it.
- First, you must meet the eligibility criteria for the ACP program. Ž
- Secondly, you need to provide evidence of your eligibility by submitting supporting documents.
- Next, you must apply for the ACP program, preferably through the National Verifier.
- Finally, you need to find an ACP provider in your area that offers free tablets for students from the government.
Let’s examine each of these steps in detail.
How to Qualify for a Free Tablet for Students from the Government in 2023
To be eligible for the ACP program and receive a free tablet for students, there are several requirements that need to be met.
Firstly, the applicant must be 18 years old or an emancipated minor. Students who are younger than 18 can apply through a household member. Secondly, the applicant must be a resident of a state where the selected provider offers services. Lastly, only one person per household can receive the benefits. Additionally, there are universal eligibility criteria established by the FCC, including meeting income guidelines, participating in certain programs, or receiving a Federal Pell Grant.
A household is ACP-eligible if it meets one of the following FCC criteria:
- Its annual income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which depend on the household size and state.
- A household member participates in Lifeline.
- A household member participates in:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Head Start (only households meeting the income qualifying standard)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program
- A household received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year.
How to Prove Eligibility for a Free Tablet for Students from the Government
Of course, simply claiming that you’re eligible for ACP won’t suffice. You need to provide proof of eligibility, which may involve submitting official documents that contain crucial information.
Depending on the eligibility criteria, you may need to verify low income or participation in certain programs, as well as personal information.
- To prove your low income, you can provide official documents such as a Social Security statement of benefits, paycheck stubs, current income statement from your employer, child support award, divorce decree, a prior year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return, an Unemployment or Worker’s compensation statement of benefits, of a Veterans administration statement of benefit. The document must include your full name and income.
- To verify participation in a program, you may need to submit an approval letter, benefit award letter, benefit verification letter, statement of benefits, or school documentation. The document must include your full name, the name of the program, the name of the issuing institution, and a future expiration date.
- In terms of verifying your personal information, you may be asked to verify your identity, age, address, proof of life, proof of emancipation, etc.
It’s important to prepare clear copies of the required documents ahead of time, and never send originals.
How to Apply for ACP to Get a Free Tablet for Students from the Government
It’s not the government that offers free tablets and other benefits for students and other eligible applicants directly. Instead, individual ACP providers (wireless companies that participate in the government assistance program) offer those devices and services. As such, you must naturally apply for a provider that offers the benefits that best suit your needs.
All ACP companies have an application form that you must complete in order to apply. However, it’s difficult to know whether your selected provider runs its form through the National Verifier (the only institution that can determine your eligibility) or not. Those that do enable customers to apply directly through them. On the other hand, those that don’t will require you to first apply through the National Verifier. As such, it’s best to first apply through the National Verifier and then through the selected provider.
You can apply for ACP through the National Verifier online. To do so:
- Go to https://nv.fcc.gov/lifeline/?id=nv_flow&amp;amp;amp;ebbp=true.
- You may need to log in or create a new account.
- Complete the ACP application form by providing all the necessary information and documentation.
- At the bottom of each page, press ‘Next’, and at the end of the form, press ‘Submit’.
Applying online may get you instantly approved. However, if you prefer to apply via mail, you can do so:
- Print out an ACP application at https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/ACP-Application-Form-English.pdf.
- Include a Household Worksheet, which is available at https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/lifeline/images/ACP-Household-Worksheet-English.pdf (this step is optional but recommended).
- Complete both forms.
- Add copies of the documents that prove your eligibility.
- Send the package to ACP Support Center, PO Box 7081, London, KY 40742.
How to Find a Provider of Free Tablets for Students from the Government
Wireless companies that participate in the ACP program and offer ACP benefits are available in all states, territories, Commonwealth, and Tribal lands. As such, you should have any issues locating such a company in your area. However, while all ACP companies offer discounts on monthly internet services, only some of them also offer discounts on connected devices. Moreover, from those that do, not all may offer free tablets – some may offer laptops or desktops instead.
To find a suitable provider in your area, visit https://cnm.universalservice.org/, key in your location, and select the ACP program. The tool will generate a list of all the companies that operate in your area. Note which ones offer discounted devices and then contact each of them to ask what exactly it is that they are offering (the contact information is included in the list).
That being said, here is a list of the best ACP companies that offer free tablets for students (and other eligible customers) from the government:
- AirTalk Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://airtalkwireless.com)
- Cintex Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://cintexwireless.com)
- Easy Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://myeasywireless.com)
- Excess Telecom (see the offer and enroll at https://www.excesstelecom.com)
- Go Technology Management (see the offer and enroll at https://goknows.com)
- Maxsip Telecom (see the offer and enroll at https://maxsipconnects.com)
- Moolah Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://moolahwireless.com)
- My Tablet ACP (see the offer and enroll at https://www.mytabletacp.com)
- NewPhone Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://newphone.com)
- Q Link Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://qlinkwireless.com)
- StandUp Wireless (see the offer and enroll at https://standupwireless.com)
- Stimulus (see the offer and enroll at https://stimulustabletjobs.com)
- TruConnect (see the offer and enroll at https://www.truconnect.com)
What Benefits Will I Get if I Get Approved
If your application gets approved, you will be notified by both the National Verifier and your ACP provider. You will then shortly receive a free SIM card (via mail), a tablet, and a monthly service plan tied to your SIM card and account. Depending on the provider and your plan, you may receive:
- Free monthly wireless services with free data
- The plan may also include free talk minutes and text messages for customers who also qualify for Lifeline
- Lifeline subscribers may also receive a free cell phone
- And the tablet. Most companies don’t reveal the tablet model in advance, however, you can expect to receive an Alcatel Joy Tab, Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, Apple iPad 3, Apple iPad Air 2, Apple iPad Mini 3, KonnectONE Moxee Tablet, etc.
Other Ways to Get a Free Tablet for Students in 2023
If your plan to get a free tablet for students from the government fails, you may still be able to get a free device in another way. For instance:
- If you come from a low-income household, you can contact a non-profit organization. They often offer free refurbished tablets for low-income children and students. Such organizations include Adaptive.Org, Alliance for Technology, Computers With Causes, ConnectED Initiative, Everyone On, Freecycle, Human I-T, Komputers for Kids, Microsoft Registered Refurbishers, National Cristina Foundation, PCs for People, Smart Riverside, The Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse, The On It Foundation, and World Computer Exchange.
- Find a carrier or retailer’s promotional deal. Companies, such as Comcast, Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, carriers, and certain tablet brands often offer free tablets. However, these offers tend to come with some conditions (to buy a pricey plan, add a line, switch to their service, trade in an old device, or buy another device at full price).
- Try your luck online by participating in surveys or contests and giveaways, becoming a reviewer or marketing manager, or scanning through online marketplaces for refurbished tablets.