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AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, others commit to low-income broadband program

REUTERS

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday plan to join with telecom executives, members of Congress and others to highlight the $30-a-month subsidy now available to low-income households to access high-speed internet. The program has run up against an early hurdle because the people who need it most are the hardest to reach because they aren’t online.

Senior administration officials said the companies, which cover more than 80% of the U.S. population, had agreed to increase their internet speeds or cut prices to ensure that all eligible households can tap into high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 a month.

In addition to AT&T, Comcast and Verizon’s Fios service, other participating providers include Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Frontier Communications Corp. and regional providers such as Jackson Energy Authority in Tennessee, Comporium Inc. in the Carolinas and the Vermont Telephone Co.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Biden often spoke about broadband services as a necessity and pointed to the plight of families who would park in fast-food parking lots to access wireless internet during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan is part of a $65 billion program to build up the country’s broadband network through the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure law approved by Congress in 2021. While most of the broadband funds will be awarded to states and territories for fiber-optic-cable projects, the law also allows $14 billion in subsidies called the Affordable Connectivity Program to lower internet costs and improve access to broadband.

About 11.5 million households have signed up for the monthly subsidy, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the subsidies. The aid is available to households whose income is 200% or less than federal poverty guidelines or for those that qualify for a government assistance program such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or a Federal Pell Grant.

Officials estimated that there are about 48 million eligible households, which the administration is attempting to enroll in the program.

As part of that effort, the administration is launching a new website, GetInternet.gov, to give Americans details on how they can sign up for the subsidies or find participating internet providers in their area.

Other federal agencies, along with states and cities, intend to promote the program.

A previous version set up by Congress in 2020 was called the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which provided people with $50 a month. That has been replaced by the $30 subsidy and the prior program has been rolled into the current one.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text