Digital Divide

Altice USA pitches free or discounted mobile lines through ACP

Showing again that the lines between wireless and wired connectivity are blurring in the world of cable, Altice USA has become the latest US operator to apply mobile service benefits to its implementation of the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Complementing its home broadband support for ACP, Altice USA said it is now offering free or discounted lines of mobile service to customers who qualify for the subsidy program for low-income households. The ACP benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward Internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands. But that benefit is also being extended to mobile by a small group of cable operators that offer such services.

Here's how Altice USA's ACP mobile benefit stacks up by service level:

Table 1:

Free* with ACP Free* with ACP $15/month* with ACP $25 per month* with ACP
1GB 3GB Unlimited Unlimited Max; regularly
Regularly $15 per month Regularly $15 per month Regularly $45 per month Regularly $55 per month
Light user Moderate user Heavy user Always connected
1GB premium data, unlimited talk and text and 5G access at no additional cost 3GB premium data, unlimited talk and text and 5G access at no additional cost 20GB premium data, unlimited talk and text, 5G hotspot, 5G access at no additional cost 50GB premium data, unlimited talk and text, 15GB hotspot, 5G access at no additional cost
*After benefit is applied to monthly plan excluding taxes and fees. $20 activation fee applies.
(Source: Altice USA's ACP website)

Altice USA's mobile service is underpinned by a revised MVNO deal with T-Mobile announced in March. Altice USA added 5,000 mobile lines in Q3 2022 for a total of 236,000. The company estimates that mobile penetration reached about 5.5% of its residential broadband base at the end of the period.

(Source: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)

"We continue to be champions of the ACP and its goal to close the connectivity gap for customers across the country and look forward to now providing eligible consumers with the ability to reduce the cost of their fixed or mobile services through the program," Matthew Grover, EVP at Optimum (Altice USA's consumer brand), said in a statement.

Mobilizing on mobile

Altice USA's ACP expansion into mobile takes shape as US cable operators become increasingly active (and successful) in mobile. Led by Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice USA, US cable nabbed a 31% share of industry phone net adds in Q3 2022, according to MoffettNathanson (a unit of SVB Securities). Collectively that trio added 734,000 net wireless lines in the period, ending it with a grand total of 9.86 million lines.

Comcast also has added a mobile option to its ACP implementation. Comcast, which has an MVNO relationship with Verizon, also offers a credit of up to $30 per month toward Internet and mobile services (and, again up to $75 per month for qualified households on tribal lands) through ACP.

According to the fine print, if Comcast customers who qualify for ACP have both Internet and mobile service, the ACP benefit will first be applied to the Internet portion of their bill, with any remaining ACP benefit applied to Xfinity Mobile services. Notably, ACP benefits can't be used for Xfinity Mobile device payments and the Xfinity Mobile protection plan.

Among other cable operators, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and WideOpenWest also offer mobile services in certain US markets. But, at last check, they do not appear to offer a mobile benefit under their respective ACP implementations. Light Reading has asked them if they intend to make any future alterations that add mobile to the ACP mix.

As of December 5, about 15 million US households were enrolled in ACP. Congress is under pressure about the financial future of program, which is projected to run out of funding by 2025 if no further action is taken.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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