Politics

Biden to tout expansion of discount internet program for low-income households

Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — As he seeks to close the nation’s digital divide, President Joe Biden will announce on Monday new commitments from 20 internet service providers to expand discounted, high-speed internet access to tens of millions of low-income Americans under an existing federal program.

According to a senior administration official, 20 internet providers have agreed to either increase speeds or cut prices, and to offer enrollees of the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, with high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 a month. The new participation from the private sector, in conjunction with the ACP subsidy covering up to $30 a month (or $75 a month on Tribal lands), essentially makes the program free.

“For example,” the White House said in a fact sheet, “as part of this initiative, Verizon lowered the price for its Fios service from $39.99/month to $30/month for a plan that delivers download and upload speeds of at least 200 Megabits per second, and Spectrum doubled the speed of the $30/month plan it makes available to ACP participants from 50 to 100 Megabits per second.”

More than $14 billion in funding for the subsidy program was included in the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which Biden signed into law last November. So far, more than 11 million households have already signed up to receive the benefit — but the White House has said 48 million households are eligible.

Participating companies unveiled Monday include AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum and Comcast, as well as several regional companies, which altogether cover more than 80% of the U.S. population, the White House said, or nearly 40% of households in the country.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is grateful for the efforts of these companies, and encourages additional internet service providers to join this effort to close the digital divide by offering high-speed, low-cost plans,” the White House said in a statement.

As he continues to push his infrastructure agenda, Biden has repeatedly recalled stories of families driving to McDonalds’ parking lots during the pandemic to connect to Wi-Fi.

“How many people did you see out in McDonald’s parking lots with their kids in their cars because they get access to the internet?” Biden said in a speech in Scranton, Pennsylvania last October.

Households with an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or with a family member participating in one of several federal programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Pell Grants, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, are eligible for the discount.

Americans can see if they qualify at Getinternet.gov.

The administration’s effort to lower internet costs for families comes ahead of a dire inflation report expected Tuesday, as Biden struggles to keep prices down for Americans ahead of the midterm election season.

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