The Biden administration announced on Monday that 20 internet companies have agreed to provide discounted service to people with low incomes, a program that could effectively make tens of millions of households eligible for free service through an already existing federal subsidy.
The $1tn infrastructure package passed by Congress last year included $14.2bn in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides $30 monthly subsidies ($75 in tribal areas) on internet service for millions of lower-income households.
Biden, during his White House run and the push for the infrastructure bill, made expanding high-speed internet access in rural and low-income areas a priority. He has repeatedly spoken out about low-income families have struggled to find reliable wifi, so their children could take part in remote schooling and complete homework assignments early in the coronavirus pandemic.
“If we didn’t know it before, we know now: high-speed internet is essential,” the Democratic president said during a White House event last month honoring the National Teacher of the Year.
The 20 internet companies that have agreed to lower their rates for eligible consumers provide service in areas where 80% of the US population, including 50% of the rural population, live, according to the White House. Participating companies that offer service on tribal lands are providing $75 rates in those areas, the equivalent of the federal government subsidy in those areas.
Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris on Monday were set to meet with telecom executives, members of Congress and others to spotlight the effort to improve access to high-speed internet for low-income households.
American households are eligible for subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or if a member of their family participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.
In recent polls, American voters ranked “threats to democracy” among the most important issues facing the country. At a time of climate collapse, inflation and a pandemic, this speaks powerfully to the fragility of America’s fundamental rights and freedoms.
The country is seeing a dizzying number of assaults on democracy, from draconian abortion bans to a record number of book bans. Politicians who spread lies and sought to delegitimize the 2020 election are pursuing offices that will put them in control of the country’s election machinery. Meanwhile, the supreme court is enforcing its own agenda on abortion, guns and environmental protections – often in opposition to public opinion.
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