(WASHINGTON) — As he seeks to close the nation’s digital divide, President Joe Biden announced 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.
“It’s going to change people’s lives,” Biden said from the White House Rose Garden. “From rural Appalachia to Brooklyn, to the Black Belt families who have struggled to get internet.”
Biden said 20 internet providers have agreed to either increase speeds or cut prices, to offer enrollees of the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, 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.
“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer — it’s a necessity,” he said. “And that’s why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country, urban, suburban and rural — everywhere.”
“We saw during the pandemic how essential high-speed internet really is.”
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Alisha Jones, a beneficiary of the internet program, was also on stage as Vice President Kamala Harris touted the initiative for connecting Americans “with opportunity.”
“For example,” the White House said in a fact sheet, “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.”
Billions 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.
Biden thanked those companies for working with the administration to provide what he called “a great example of what we can achieve when the federal government and the private sector work together to solve serious problems.”
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 last October, a story he recalled on Monday, too.
“How many times have you seen a mom or dad drive up to a parking lot outside of McDonald’s and just so that you could connect to the internet, o the kid could do their homework during the pandemic literally,” he said. “It’s just not right. It’s not who we are, and we saw during the pandemic how essential high-speed internet really is.”
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 program. Americans can see if they qualify at Getinternet.gov or by calling 877-384-2575.
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.
“My top priority is fighting inflation and lowering prices for families and things they need,” Biden said Monday. “Today’s announcement is gonna give millions of families a little more, a little more breathing room, to help them pay their bills.”
ABC News’ Armando Garcia contributed to this report.
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