The White House says 20 Internet companies will provide effective free internet to millions of Americans

The Biden administration said Monday that 20 leading ISPs have agreed to offer basic low-cost plans that will be free for millions of Americans after the refund.

20 companies, including AT&T (T), Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ), cover more than 80% of the U.S. population. It will immediately provide at least one plan that costs no more than $ 30 per month and that allows a download speed of at least 100 mbps.

The White House says 40% of the U.S. population, about 48 million households, will be eligible to apply through an existing program called the Access Connection Program (ACP). The program is aimed at lower-income Americans and offers participants a discount of up to $ 30 a month on their internet account, which means they will actually get a free service if they can connect with one of these companies that participate online.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said his company’s new plan “combined with ACP’s federal benefits provides up to 100 Mbps of free Internet service.”

“The Internet for All requires a partnership between business and government, and we are pleased to work with the administration, Congress and the FCC to ensure that everyone has an affordable, affordable and sustainable broadband service,” he said.

‘High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury’

Monday’s news comes largely thanks to $ 65 billion set aside for high-speed internet in a two-party infrastructure law. That money has helped fund ACP, and is also focused on parallel efforts to increase coverage and speed.

“High-speed internet at home is no longer a luxury: children need to learn, workers need to do their jobs, the elderly and others need access to healthcare through telemedicine, and we all need to stay connected in this digital world,” a senior administration official told reporters. post review.

‘Historical opportunity’

Families qualify for ACP mainly on the basis of income level. Any household earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level – $ 55,500 for a family of four in the continental United States – is eligible. Households may also qualify if they participate in certain government programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a historic opportunity to close the digital divide by empowering more Americans to access the Internet and connect with our increasingly digital world,” said David N. Watson, CEO and President of Comcast.

The full list of participating companies includes Allo Communications, AltaFiber, Altice USA, Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum, Verizon, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber, and Wow! Internet, cable and TV.

Verizon, for example, will now offer its existing Fios service for $ 30 a month to program participants. Other companies, such as Spectrum, say they will increase the speed of the existing plan by $ 30 a month to reach the 100 mbps standard set by the White House, where their infrastructure allows it.

Encouraging more companies to ‘take on the same responsibilities’

Monday’s announcement lacks many smaller and rural ISPs that would be challenged to meet White House pricing or speed requirements.

“I think there are currently about 1,300 participating ISPs in ACP and we would obviously like each of them to take on the same responsibilities as these 20 companies,” a senior management official said.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris remarks on the Biden administration's affordable connectivity program at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on February 14, 2022 in Washington, DC.  During the event, Harris announced that 10 million households have signed up for a program that helps families access high-speed and affordable internet.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris discusses an affordable connectivity program in February. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

These companies cover 50% of the rural population. These Americans are still eligible to apply for ACP, but may continue to face slower speeds or plans that are not fully covered by the $ 30 refund.

So far, 11.5 million households have applied to receive ACP benefits. The program was first created as a relief measure in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and Biden officials have made it permanent as a way to reduce the digital divide.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the White House on Monday along with CEOs of Internet companies as the first part of a multiple effort to increase the number of applications. That effort includes the new GetInternet.gov website and direct contact with federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration as well as the state.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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