US President Joe Biden signs pact with internet companies to lower prices for low-income Americans

US President Joe Biden’s administration announced Monday that 20 internet companies have agreed to offer discounted services to low-income Americans, a program that could effectively put tens of millions of households at risk through an already existing federal subsidy for free services.

The $1 trillion (approximately Rs. 5,800 — in tribal areas) infrastructure package passed by Congress last year, providing Internet services to millions of low-income households.

With the new ISP pledge, around 48 million households will be eligible for $30 monthly plans (ca. Sign up with one of the providers participating in the program.

Biden made expanding high-speed Internet access in rural and low-income areas a priority during his White House tenure and infrastructure bill efforts. He has repeatedly spoken out about low-income families struggling to find reliable WiFi so their children could attend distance learning and do homework early in the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we didn’t know it before, we know it now: high-speed internet is essential,” the Democratic president said last month during a White House event honoring the national teacher of the year.

The 20 internet companies that have agreed to lower their rates for eligible consumers provide services in areas where 80 percent of the US population lives, including 50 percent of the rural population, the White House said. Participating companies providing services in tribal areas will pay fees of US$75 (approximately Rs. 5,800) in those areas, which is equal to the federal government subsidy in those areas.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were scheduled to meet with telecom industry executives, members of Congress and others Monday to shine a spotlight on efforts to improve access to high-speed internet for low-income households.

The providers are Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum (Charter Communications ), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, cable and television.

American households are eligible for subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line or if a family member participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.

© Thomson Reuters 2022 US President Joe Biden signs pact with internet companies to lower prices for low-income Americans

Ryan Sederquist

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