Biden admin announces expansion of free high-speed internet to eligible US households
The Biden administration secured commitments from 20 internet service providers to increase speeds or cut prices so that tens of millions of eligible U.S. households can receive free high-speed internet, the White House announced on Monday.
The commitments build on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which was created through the bipartisan infrastructure law and provides eligible families with $30 a month off their internet bills.
“Here in the United States of America, how many times have you seen a mom or a dad drive up to a parking lot outside a McDonald’s, just so they can get connected to the internet so their kid can do their homework during the pandemic? It’s just not right, it’s not who we are,” President Biden said in remarks at the White House on Monday.
He called the need for high-speed internet “pretty consequential” and said it’s not a luxury item but a necessity.
The new commitments announced on Monday mean internet service providers will increase speeds or cut prices to ensure that all ACP-eligible households receive high-speed, high-quality internet plans for no more than $30 per month.
“You may have gotten, used slow speeds or maybe you would have to pay some more out of pocket to get the faster that you wanted. That’s why the Biden-Harris administration has worked with the private sector to try and fix that,” senior administration officials said.
About 48 million households are eligible for the ACP, which is nearly 40 percent of U.S. households. As of February, more than 10 million U.S. householders were enrolled in the program.
Biden and Vice President Harris will announce the reduced high-speed internet costs on Monday as part of their efforts to lower costs for U.S. families amid high inflation that has plagued Biden’s approval ratings.
“My top priority is fighting inflation and lowering prices for families and things they need. Today’s announcement is going to give millions of families a little more, a little more breathing room to help them pay their bills,” Biden said.
Part of the president’s domestic agenda has been expanding broadband access for Americans. The bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to expand access to broadband internet around the U.S.
“Today, too many families simply can’t afford to get connected even if there’s access to get connected. So, they go without high-speed internet, or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work,” Biden said.
“In the past, $30 a month meant you had to settle for a slow internet service unless you wanted to pay a heck of a lot more out of pocket,” he added.
Large providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, as well as smaller providers serving rural areas, like Jackson Energy Authority in Tennessee and Comporium in North Carolina, made the commitment to free internet.
Biden thanked providers at the White House, asking representatives from the companies to stand up from their seats in the Rose Garden.
“This is a case where big business stepped up,” he said.
“I’m trying to get others to do the same thing with inflation, but these guys are the best,” he joked.
Households qualify for the ACP based on their income or through their participation in a federal program, like Pell Grants, Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.
The administration will launch Getinternet.gov, which provides information on how to sign up for ACP, and will coordinate with states and cities to spread the word, including through text messages to eligible residents, officials said.
“Affordable high-speed internet can make or break how millions of families can work, learn and participate in the 21st century economy,” they added.
—Updated at 2:24 p.m.
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