The Biden administration on Monday announced an agreement with internet providers to supply free or low-cost internet to millions of Americans, The Washington Post reports.
The White House said 20 internet providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have signed on to a plan to expand affordable high-speed internet to tens of millions of households.
The plan would cost qualifying households no more than $30 per month but government subsidies would cover the full cost depending on income.
The White House estimated that the program would cover 48 million households, or 40% of the country.
More than 11.5 million households have already signed up for government subsidies.
“High-speed Internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity,” President Joe Biden told reporters.
Nearly half of US qualify:
Households qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is no more than 200% of the federal poverty line or if the household already qualifies for an internet provider’s low-income service programs.
Households can also receive the benefit if a member receives government assistance like Medicaid, SNAP, federal housing assistance, Pell grant tuition assistance, or free school lunch.
Part of infrastructure rollout:
The program is part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.
Biden vowed to expand broadband offerings to rural areas, where a 2021 survey found 30% of households lacked broadband speeds. And city prices have also risen to price many out of the market.
“The cost of broadband is a driver of the digital divide,” Chris Lewis, president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, told the Post. “And that’s in all types of communities, urban, rural, suburban, you name it. ... Look at the reaction during the pandemic to people being upset that children in schools did not have access to broadband. That was not a rural issue. That was an issue in every community. And even if a family could afford broadband and their kids were doing school over broadband, they knew someone in their school, one of their kids’ friends, who was not connected to quality broadband.”