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Monday, October 3, 2022

New federal program will make broadband cheaper for low-income Americans

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Depending on your income status, your internet bill could get a good deal cheaper soon.

The Biden White House announced Monday that low-income Americans will be eligible for reduced broadband prices through a new Affordable Connectivity Program (or ACP). This is being done through partnerships with 20 internet service providers (ISPs) around the country, including AT&T and Verizon. Those who are eligible will see their bills slashed by up to $30/mo, or as much as $75/mo on Tribal lands. In the announcement, the Biden administration defined high-speed internet as “at least 100 Megabits per second everywhere that the provider’s infrastructure is capable of it.”

As for exactly who’s eligible, it depends on a variety of factors that you can see on a fairly straightforward ACP website. The first and simplest way to qualify is for your household to be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which scales with the size of your household according to a chart on the website. It’s $27,180 for a single-person household, $36,620 for two, and so on. 

List of federal qualifications for affordable broadband internet

If someone in your home is part of one of these programs, you can get cheaper internet.
Credit: Screenshot: U.S. Government

Failing that, you can qualify for ACP benefits if someone in your household benefits from one of several federal aid programs, like Medicaid, SNAP, or pell grants. Finally, you qualify for ACP if you’re already eligible for your local ISP’s existing low-income service tier. In all, the White House estimates that some 48 million households in America will be eligible for these cost reductions.

As with any means-tested government program that goes through private companies, it’ll be interesting to see how substantial these benefits actually wind up being and how many people get left out. The specific wording that prices could be cut by “up to” $30 monthly especially sticks out. Will a $30 drop be the norm, or will it be an exceptional outlier?

Regardless, it’s still good to see some assistance for people who need high-speed internet but can’t pay exorbitant prices for it. You can hardly do so much as apply for a job without internet access these days, but at least 21 million Americans were estimated to lack broadband access in 2020. Between this and the recent decree that ISPs have to provide nutrition labels with information like actual speed and hidden costs, it’s about time ISPs do something other than screw over their customers.





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