As he tries to close the country’s digital divide, President Joe Biden announced on Monday new commitments from 20 Internet service providers to extend discounted high-speed Internet access to tens of millions of low-income Americans under an existing federal program. .
“It’s going to change people’s lives,” Biden said from the White House Rose Garden. “From rural Appalachia to Brooklyn, to the Black Belt families struggling to get the Internet.”
Biden said 20 ISPs have agreed to either increase speeds or lower prices, to offer Affordable Connectivity Program or ACP participants high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 a month. The new private sector participation, coupled with the ACP grant that covers up to $30 per month (or $75 per month on Tribal lands), makes the program essentially free.
“Fast internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said. “And that’s why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included $65 billion to ensure we expand broadband internet access in every region of the country, urban, suburban and rural — everywhere.”
Alisha Jones, a beneficiary of the Internet program, was also on stage when Vice President Kamala Harris praised the initiative to connect Americans “with opportunity.”
“For example,” the White House said in a… fact sheetVerizon dropped the price of its Fios service from $39.99/month to $30/month for a plan that delivers download and upload speeds of at least 200 Megabits per second, and Spectrum doubled the speed of the $30/month subscription that makes it available to ACP participants from 50 to 100 Megabits per second.”
Billions in funding for the grant program were included in the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Biden signed last November. More than 11 million households have already signed up to receive the benefit so far, but the White House has said 48 million households are eligible.
Participating companies to be revealed on Monday include AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum and Comcast, as well as several regional companies, which together make up more than 80% of the U.S. population, the White House said, or nearly 40% of the country’s households.
Biden thanked those companies for working with the government to set what he called “a great example of what we can achieve when the federal government and the private sector work together to solve serious problems.”
As he continues to push his infrastructure agenda, Biden repeatedly recalls stories of families driving to McDonald’s parking lots to connect to Wi-Fi during the pandemic.
“How many people have you seen in McDonald’s parking lots with their kids in their cars because they have internet access?” Biden said in a speech in Scranton last October, a story he also recalled Monday.
“How many times have you seen a mom or dad drive to a parking lot outside McDonald’s and just so you could connect to the internet so the kid could literally do their homework during the pandemic,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not who we are, and we’ve seen how essential fast internet really is during the pandemic.”
Households with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or with a family member participating in one of several federal programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Pell Grants, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income are eligible for the program. Americans can see if they qualify with Getinternet.gov or by calling 877-384-2575.
The government’s efforts to cut internet costs for families are anticipating a dire inflation report expected Tuesday as Biden struggles to keep prices low for Americans ahead of the midterm election season.
“My top priority is fighting inflation and lowering prices for families and things they need,” Biden said Monday. “Today’s announcement gives millions of families a little more, a little more breathing room, to help them pay their bills.”
Armando Garcia of ABC News contributed to this report.