Broadband providers offer free Internet to low-income families

Last year’s federal infrastructure spending bill is about to pay off for low-income households in need of broadband Internet service. Local providers are rolling out options that will let them get high-speed Internet connections at no charge.

The infrastructure bill set aside $14 billion to provide a monthly subsidy of $30 for Internet service to families earning no more than twice the official poverty level. For a family of four in Boston, that comes to $55,500 or less.

But the major local broadband companies —Verizon Communications, Comcast Corp. and Astound Broadband (formerly known as RCN) all offer services that deliver broadband to low-income families at a cost of $30 or less. So when the subsidy is factored in, these families won’t have to pay for Internet service.

Comcast said it will provide subsidized broadband service with download speed of up to 100 megabits per second. Or a customer can choose a slower service with 50-megabit speed, along with a Xfinity Mobile telephone account, and pay nothing for both services.

Verizon said its free offering will feature 200 megabits of download and upload speeds. And Astound will provide a free service with download speeds of 150 megabits for low-income households.

The two-decade-long effort to narrow the “digital divide” and ensure that people with low incomes could afford Internet access took on new urgency after the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and businesses nationwide to shut down. Last year’s infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in November, set aside a total of $65 billion in an effort to provide universal Internet access.


Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.

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