Thousands of low-income families in Palm Beach County are expected to benefit from a program that will reduce the cost of high-speed internet, according to Palm Beach County Commissioner Gregg Weiss.
Weiss went to Washington, D.C., last week to attend a White House event where President Joe Biden announced details of the program. Weiss said more than 90,000 households in Palm Beach County currently lack access to high-speed internet.
The plan, a feature of the $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year, would cost qualifying households no more than $30 per month. Twenty internet providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, have agreed to provide high-speed service at a steep discount to low-income consumers, the White House announced Monday, significantly expanding broadband access.
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Weiss has been a strong supporter of the measure. He helped shape the law as a result of his participation in the National Association of Counties, which helped lead to the invitation to the White House. Weiss also has addressed the lack of internet access through the Florida Association of Counties.
The 100 megabit-per-second service is fast enough for a family to work from home, complete schoolwork, browse the web, and stream high-definition movies and TV shows, the White House said. According to Weiss, the current programs to assist low-income families do not function at the 100-megabit speed.
Weiss said he has heard repeatedly from county residents who struggle to get access to the internet. The pandemic brought the lack of accessibility into focus, he said, noting that the program will help to address “the digital divide in our community.”
Biden said “high-speed internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity.” He made the remarks when he announced the program at the White House Rose Garden.
Who qualifies for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
Households can qualify for the subsidies, called the Affordable Connectivity Program, if their income is at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, a member of the household participates in certain federal anti-poverty initiatives — including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, federal housing assistance, Pell Grant tuition assistance or free or reduced-price school meals — or if the household already qualifies for an internet provider’s low-income service program.
Weiss said the cost of internet service has been a bigger obstacle than network access. That has prevented families from getting online to access telehealth service, participate in educational activities or enjoy entertainment. Educators say that students often go to fast-food restaurants or coffee shops to access the Internet because there is no connectivity at home.
To see if you qualify for the program, call 1-877-384-2575 or go to getinternet.gov
Mike Diamond is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He covers county government and transportation. You can reach him email@example.com. Help support local journalism. Subscribe today.