Biden Starts Program to Offer Discounted Internet Service

WILMINGTON, Del. — The Biden administration announced on Monday that 20 internet companies have agreed to provide discounted service to people with low incomes, a program that could effectively make tens of millions of households eligible for free service through an already existing federal subsidy.

Congress passed the $1 trillion infrastructure package last year. It included $14.2 billion for Affordable Connectivity Program funding. This program provides $30 monthly subsidies (75 for tribal areas) for internet service to millions of low-income households.

With the new commitment from the internet providers, some 48 million households will be eligible for $30 monthly plans for 100 megabits per second, or higher speed, service — making internet service fully paid for with the government subsidy if they sign up with one of the providers participating in the program.

Biden made high-speed Internet access available in low- and rural income areas a priority during his White House tenure and while he was pushing for the infrastructure legislation. He spoke out repeatedly about families with low incomes that had difficulty finding reliable Wi-Fi so they could participate in remote schooling or complete their homework before the outbreak of coronavirus.

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“If we didn’t know it before, we know now: High-speed internet is essential,” the Democratic president said during a White House event last month honoring the National Teacher of the Year.

According to the White House, the 20 participating internet companies have agreed to reduce their prices for eligible customers. They provide service to areas in which 80% of U.S. residents live. The federal subsidy for those regions is $75, which is the same rate that participating companies charge to offer services on tribal lands.

Biden and Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, met Monday with members and executives from telecom companies to discuss how to increase access to internet at low cost for those who are eligible.

The providers are Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum (Charter Communications), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Co., Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, TV, Cable and Television.

American households can be eligible for subsidy through the Affordable Connection Program if they have an income at least 200% below the federal poverty level or if a member or their family is enrolled in one of many programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance(FPHA), Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.

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