America Reduces High-Speed Internet Cost for Low-Income Homes, Why This Move Is Essential

In our modern world, where technology is continually advancing, more businesses, services, and employees have migrated online. As a result, people without high-speed internet connectivity may find it more challenging to look for and apply for jobs, use financial services, or finish work and school obligations. Therefore, many feel that free internet access should be a human right since it would empower billions of citizens to lead ‘minimally decent lives.’

It seems the White House agrees. On May 9th, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the expansion of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the launch of a website to help people register for it. In addition, they said they’ve secured private sector commitments – agreements with 20 internet service providers to lower high-speed internet costs for low-income American families. It could even cut internet costs to zero for some.

President Joe Biden
(Credit: Andrew Harnik from AP)

The president said that 40% of US families (tens of millions of households) would soon be eligible for free Internet connection thanks to a federal subsidy of $14.2 billion in funding for the ACP. It’s part of the $1 trillion infrastructure package (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) Congress passed last year. The ACP provides $30 monthly subsidies ($75 in tribal areas) on Internet service for lower-income households, meaning households receive a $30 or $75 discount on high-speed internet.

By ‘high-speed internet,’ the White House means a plan that offers 100 Mbps download speeds everywhere the ISP’s infrastructure can handle it.

The 20 internet providers involved cover over 80% of the American population across rural, suburban, and urban areas. These companies are required to either cut prices or increase speeds so that all ACP-eligible households can have high-quality internet plans for a maximum of $30 per month.

About the ACP, Who Qualifies, and How to Sign Up

The ACP is the most extensive high-speed internet affordability initiative in US history.

A household qualifies if any of the following is true:

  • Your annual income falls within the Federal Poverty Guidelines (at or below 200%). For example, if you have a three-member household, your combined income must be at or below $46,060. If you’re single, your income can’t exceed $27,180.
  • You or another member of your household participates in any of the following programs:
    • Certain Tribal assistance programs
    • Federal Pell Grant (attained n the current award year)
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance
    • Free and Reduced-Price School Breakfast Program or School Lunch Program
    • Lifeline
    • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Children, and Infants
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
  • You meet the qualifying requirements for an existing low-income internet program offered by a partnering broadband provider.

More than 11.5 million families have currently signed up to receive the ACP benefit from one of the 1,300+ internet service providers participating in the program.

high-speed internet users
(Credit: August de Richelieu from Pexels)

Signing up is easy. The White House developed the website getInternet.gov to assist Americans in determining their eligibility and applying for the ACP.

First, make sure you qualify. Then, visit the webpage and follow these steps:

  • Select your desired qualification method by choosing “Qualify using your household income” or “Qualify through a government assistance program.”
  • Click Apply Now after answering the preceding questions.
  • You’ll be redirected to a Federal Communications Commission webpage where you enter your personal information like name, date of birth, ID, and address. Then, click Next and proceed as instructed.

After your application is approved, you can move on to the following final steps:

  • Contact one of the partnering internet service providers.
  • Tell the provider you applied for ACP and pick an internet plan.
  • Your ACP benefit is applied to the plan you choose.

The following internet providers are participating in the ACP:

  • Allo Communications
  • AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom)
  • Altice (Optimum and Suddenlink)
  • Astound
  • AT&T
  • Breezeline
  • Comcast
  • Comporium
  • Cox Communications
  • Frontier
  • IdeaTek
  • Jackson Energy Authority
  • Mediacom
  • MLGC
  • Spectrum (Charter Communications)
  • Starry
  • Verizon (Fios only)
  • Vermont Telephone Company
  • Vexus Fiber
  • Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV

If your provider isn’t listed, ACP may still refund you. Use the Companies Near Me tool on the website to comb through the 1,300+ internet service providers that offer the ACP service.

Biden Says Expanding Internet Access is a Priority

Biden prioritized boosting high-speed Internet connection in rural and low-income regions during his White House candidacy and infrastructure bill effort.

The ACP press release reads:

“High-speed internet service is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. But too many families go without high-speed internet because of the cost or have to cut back on other essentials to make their monthly internet service payments. Lowering prices—including the cost of high-speed internet service—is President Biden’s top priority.”

This relates to a recent study by the University of Birmingham that argues the idea of free internet connectivity as a fundamental human right. It suggests that people unable to get online lack meaningful ways to influence and connect with the global players shaping their everyday lives. According to the report, free internet access could defend life, liberty, and freedom from torture. Moreover, it could help billions live ‘minimally decent lives.’

Study author Dr. Merten Reglitz, a Lecturer in Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham, elaborated:

“Internet access is no luxury, but instead a moral human right. Everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global medium – provided free of charge for those unable to afford it.”

 

Without such access, many people lack a meaningful way to influence and hold supranational rule-makers and institutions accountable. As a result, these individuals don’t have a say in the making of the rules they must obey and which shape their life chances.

 

Exercising free speech and obtaining information is now heavily dependent on having internet access. For example, much of today’s political debate took place online, and politically relevant information is shared on the internet – meaning the relative value these freedoms held for people’ offline’ had decreased.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Biden spoke out about low-income families who struggled to get stable Wi-Fi so their children could do remote schooling and homework.

The Democratic president said during a White House event last month honoring the National Teacher of the Year:

“If we didn’t know it before, we know now: High-speed Internet is essential.”

Now all other nations must follow suit for a truly connected global society.

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