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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Biden announces program offering discounted internet service

by Aamer Madani and Will Weissert

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden announced Monday that 20 Internet companies have agreed to offer subsidized service to low-income people, a program that will provide free service to millions of families through already existing federal subsidies. can be effectively qualified.

“High-speed Internet is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity,” Biden said at a sun-soaked rose garden event with representatives of the participating companies as well as members of Congress.

The $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year included $14.2 billion in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a $30 monthly subsidy ($75 in tribal areas) on Internet service for millions of low-income households .

With the new commitment from Internet providers, some 48 million households will be eligible for 100 megabit per second or higher speed, $30 monthly plans for service – government support for Internet service if they sign up with one of the providers. is paid in full. participating in the programme.

Biden noted that families of four earning about $55,000 a year — or including an individual eligible for Medicaid — would receive a $30 monthly credit, meaning about 40 percent of Americans would qualify.

“This is a case where big business has stepped in. We’re trying to get others to do the same,” Biden told the crowd to constant applause. “It’s going to change people’s lives.” “

Advocates were cautious optimists.

“It could be a game-changer,” said Marty Newell, coordinator of rural broadband policy at the Center for Rural Strategy in Whitesburg, Kentucky, where he said slow internet has affected residents and businesses alike.

Newell said he would like to see more about what the program will mean next, but his main question – given that increased broadband access has generally been a bipartisan issue in Congress – “has taken them so long.” what did you think?

Biden prioritized high-speed Internet access in rural and low-income areas during his White House run and while pushing for an infrastructure bill. He has spoken repeatedly about low-income families struggling to find reliable Wi-Fi so their children could attend distance schooling and complete homework early in the coronavirus pandemic, In which he said on Monday, families driving in the parking lot of McDonald’s. Wireless internet access inside the restaurant.

The president said that the 20 Internet companies that have agreed to reduce their rates for eligible consumers provide service in areas where 80% of the US population lives, including 50% of the rural population. Participating companies that provide service on tribal lands are providing rates of $75, which is equivalent to federal government subsidies in those areas.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also met with telecom executives, members of Congress and others on Monday to highlight efforts to improve access to high-speed Internet for low-income families. The president said the top priority going forward will be increasing competition among Internet providers in many parts of the country, given that millions of Americans live in areas with just one provider and currently pay high prices because of it.

Participating providers are Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altis USA (Optimal and Sudden Link), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTech, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, Mediacom, MLGC, spectrum (charter). Communications), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, cable and TV.

American households are eligible for subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is 200% or less of the federal poverty level, or if a family member participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Is. Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Veterans Pension and Survivor Benefits.

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