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The White House on Monday announced plans to boost access to high-speed internet for low-income families, building on existing federal subsidies and effectively giving millions of Americans free internet access as the Biden Administration continues its push to close the digital divide.
Twenty internet service providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, have agreed to either cut prices or increase speeds to provide eligible households with affordable high-speed internet access, the White House said.
The commitment, which is not binding or tied to federal funding, means the companies will offer plans with speeds of at least 100 Mbps (megabits per second) for $30 a month to households that qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package passed last year.
As the ACP grants eligible households a $30 subsidy towards internet bills each month, the announcement effectively means millions of households are eligible for free high-speed internet services.
The White House said some 48 million households will be eligible for the ACP scheme—which is assessed on income level or participation in government programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income—around 40% of households.
The service providers involved, which also includes smaller local providers, will cover more than 80% of the U.S. population, the White House added, and efforts are underway to enlist more providers.
The almost overnight shift to at-home working and schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of high-speed internet access. Despite being a vital part of modern-day life, many Americans still lack internet access at home—reasons frequently include cost or availability—and with public locations like libraries and schools shuttered during the pandemic, many were cut off entirely. This burden is disproportionately felt among poorer, rural communities, hence efforts like ACP to try and boost access. The costs of connecting rural and remote areas can be significant, however, and a large part of the bipartisan package contained money to expand broadband internet to low-income and rural areas, largely through developing internet infrastructure like fiber-optic cables.
11.5 million. That’s how many households have signed up to receive the ACP benefit, the White House said. More than 1,300 internet service providers participate in the program, which discounts $30 a month off any plans for eligible households. This rises to $75 a month for households on Tribal Lands.
The participating internet service providers are:
- Allo Communications
- AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom)
- Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink)
- Cox Communications
- Jackson Energy Authority
- Spectrum (Charter Communications)
- Verizon (Fios only)
- Vermont Telephone Company
- Vexus Fiber
- Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV
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