President Biden said Monday that about 40% of US households will soon be eligible for free Internet service thanks to a new federal subsidy.
At a Rose Garden event, the president announced that Internet access will become effectively free for millions of Americans after 20 Internet companies agreed to modify their prices to match the monthly subsidy codified in last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law.
“Nearly 40% of the households in America qualify. And if you qualify, you’re gonna get a $30 credit per month toward your Internet bill, which for most folks will mean they get on for nothing,” Biden said. “Look, zero.”
The deal is available to households that earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level or who receive some form of government aid, such as food stamps or Medicaid.
“Over the last few months, my administration has worked closely with the Internet providers. This is a case where big business stepped up,” Biden said, recognizing by name AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Frontier and Spectrum.
“Providers taking part over about 80% of the United States population, including about half of the rural population,” Biden said. “Verizon lowered the price of its high speed service from $40 a month to $30 a month. Spectrum doubled the speed of its $30 per month plan for eligible households. And we made sure that there would be no hidden fees and no tricks. This is straight stuff.”
The White House said in a fact sheet that the 20 Internet providers would offer plans of at least 100 megabits per second “for no more than $30/month” — the same amount as the government subsidy. The infrastructure bill offers a greater $75 per month subsidy in tribal areas.
Households can qualify through receiving Pell Grants, Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension, Supplemental Security Income or certain other benefits.
“New rules will soon require providers to display a ‘Broadband Nutrition Label’ that will make it easier to comparison shop for the best deal on internet,” the White House added in a statement.
The infrastructure law committed $14.2 billion to the Affordable Connectivity Program, which is estimated to apply to 48 million households. So far, 11.5 million have signed up for the benefits.
Other providers taking part in the program include Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, Breezeline, Comporium, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Starry, Vermont Telephone Co., Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet.
Biden described the benefit as a way of fighting inflation — which in March hit a 40-year high of 8.5% — even though critics say excessive government spending spurred inflation.
“I’m trying to get others to do the same thing with inflation but that these guys have the best,” Biden said of Internet companies lowering their costs.
The Congressional Budget Office said the infrastructure law included $256 billion in unfunded spending, but Biden and other bill supporters quibbled with the analysis and argued it would ultimately lower inflation by improving the transportation of goods.
With Post wires