White House Says 20 Internet Companies Will Effectively Provide Free Internet to Millions of Americans

The Biden administration announced Monday that: 20 Leading Internet Service Providers have agreed to offer low-cost basic plans that will be free for millions of Americans after reimbursement.

The 20 companies, including AT&T (t), Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ), cover more than 80% of the US population. They will immediately offer at least one plan that costs no more than $30 per month and offers download speeds of at least 100 mbps.

The White House says 40% of the U.S. population, about 48 million households, will be eligible to apply through an existing program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACS). The program is aimed at lower-income Americans and offers participants a discount of up to $30 per month on their Internet bills, meaning they essentially get free service if they can go online with one of these participating companies.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said his company’s new plan “combined with federal ACP benefits provides up to 100 Mbps of free Internet service.”

“Internet for All requires the collaboration of business and government, and we are excited to work with the administration, Congress and the FCC to ensure everyone has access to accessible, affordable and sustainable broadband services,” he said. .

Fast internet at home is no longer a luxury

Monday’s news is largely due to $65 billion earmarked for high-speed internet in the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill. That money has helped fund the ACP and is also being spent on parallel efforts to increase coverage area and speeds.

“High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury: it is a necessity for children to learn, workers to do their jobs, seniors and others to access healthcare through telemedicine, and for all of us to stay connected in this digital world. world.” a senior government official told reporters when viewing the announcement.

‘A historic opportunity’

Families usually qualify for the ACP based on income level. every household make less than 200% of the federal poverty level – $55,500 for a family of four in the continental US – is eligible. Households may also qualify if they participate in certain government programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a historic opportunity to close the digital divide by empowering more Americans to get online and connect with our increasingly digital world,” said David N. Watson, Comcast’s CEO and president.

The full list of participating companies includes Allo Communications, AltaFiber, Altice USA, Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum, Verizon, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber , and Wow! Internet, cable and TV.

Verizon, as an example, will now offer its existing Fios service for $30/month to program participants. Other companies, such as Spectrum, say they will increase the speeds of an existing $30/month plan to reach the 100 Mbps standard set by the White House, where their infrastructure allows.

Pushing more companies to ‘make the same commitments’

Notable from Monday’s announcement are many smaller and nationwide Internet service providers that would have a challenge meeting the White House’s price or speed requirements.

“I think there are about 1,300 participating ISPs in the ACS right now and we would, of course, really like each of them to make the same commitments as these 20 companies,” said a senior executive.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: US Vice President Kamala Harris makes remarks about the Biden administration's affordable connectivity program at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on February 14, 2022 in Washington, DC.  At the event, Harris announced that 10 million households had signed up for the program that gives families access to fast and affordable internet.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Affordable Connectivity Program in February. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

These companies cover 50% of the rural population. Those Americans are still eligible to sign up for the ACP, but they may still face slower speeds or plans that aren’t fully covered by the $30 refund.

To date, 11.5 million households have applied for ACP benefits. The program was first created as an emergency measure in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and Biden officials have moved to make it permanent as a way to narrow the digital divide.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the White House Monday with Internet company CEOs as the first part of a multi-pronged effort to boost sign-ups. That effort includes a new website, GetInternet.govand direct assistance from federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration and states.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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