Biden Announces Program That Offers Discounted Internet Services Business news

Author: AAMER MADHANI and WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden said Monday that 20 Internet businesses have agreed to provide reduced services to low-income people, a program that could actually provide tens of millions of households with eligibility for free services through an existing federal subsidies.

“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury. This is a must, ”Biden said at an event lit by the sun-drenched rose garden, with representatives of participating companies and members of Congress.

The $ 1 trillion infrastructure package adopted by Congress last year included $ 14.2 billion in funding for an accessible connection program that provides $ 30 monthly subsidies ($ 75 in tribal areas) for Internet services to millions of lower-income households .

With a new commitment from ISPs, about 48 million households will be eligible for monthly plans worth $ 30 for a service of 100 megabits per second or faster – making Internet service fully paid for with government assistance if they sign up with one of the providers. participation in the program.

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Biden noted that families of four who earn about $ 55,000 a year – or those who include someone eligible for Medicaid – will receive a $ 30 monthly loan, which means about 40 percent of Americans will qualify.

“This is a case where big business has strengthened. We are trying to convince others to do the same thing, “Biden told the crowd to applause. “It’s going to change people’s lives.”

Proponents were cautiously optimistic.

“That might change the game,” said Marty Newell, coordinator for rural broadband policy at the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Kentucky, where he said the slow Internet is plaguing both residents and businesses.

Newell said he wanted to see more about what the program would mean in the future, but his main question – given that broadband access was a generally bilateral issue in Congress – was “what took them so long”.

Biden has made the expansion of high-speed Internet access in rural and low-income areas a priority during his tenure at the White House and his efforts for an infrastructure law. He spoke several times about low-income families struggling to find reliable Wi-Fi so their children could attend distance learning and do homework early in the coronavirus pandemic, including, as he said Monday, families who drive to McDonald’s parking lots for wireless internet access in the restaurant.

The 20 Internet companies that have agreed to lower their prices for eligible consumers are providing services in areas where 80% of the U.S. population lives, including 50% of the rural population, the president said. Participating companies offering services on tribal land provide $ 75 in these areas, equivalent to a federal government subsidy in these areas.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also met with telecom executives, members of Congress and others on Monday to highlight efforts to improve high-speed Internet access for low-income households. The president said the main priority in the future will be to increase competition among ISPs in many parts of the country, noting that millions of Americans live in single-provider areas and are therefore currently paying higher prices.

Participating providers include Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telcom), 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 in Wow! Internet, cable and TV.

U.S. households are eligible for subsidies through the Accessible Link Program if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level or if a member of their family participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and veterans’ pension and survivor’s benefit.

A previous version of this story erroneously referred to Hawaiian Telecom. The correct name is Hawaiian Telcom.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.

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