As he seeks to close the nation’s digital divide, President Joe Biden on Monday announced new commitments from 20 internet service providers to expand access to low-cost, high-speed internet to tens of millions of low-income Americans under an existing federal program.
“This is going to change people’s lives,” Biden said from the White House Rose Garden. “From rural Appalachia to Brooklyn, Black Belt families struggling to get internet.”
Biden said 20 internet providers have agreed to either increase speeds or lower prices, offering high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 a month to those enrolled in the Affordable Connection Program, or ACP. New private sector participation, combined with an ACP subsidy of up to $30 per month (or $75 per month on tribal lands), makes the program essentially free.
“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said. “And that’s why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act includes $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband in every region of the country, urban, suburban and rural — everywhere.”
Alisha Jones, a beneficiary of the Internet program, was on stage as Vice President Kamala Harris launched an initiative to connect Americans with “opportunities.”
“For example,” the White House said in a news release, “Verizon reduced the price of its Fios service from $39.99 to $30 per month for a plan that provides at least 200 Mbps download and upload speeds, and reduced the speed of its $30 per month plan to Spectrum ACP participants. increased from 50 to 100 Megabits per second.
Billions in funding for the subsidy program were included in the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Act that Biden signed last November. So far, more than 11 million households have already signed up for benefits, but the White House said 48 million families are eligible.
Participating companies announced Monday include AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum and Comcast, as well as several regional companies that cover more than 80% of the U.S. population, about 40% of households in the country, the White House said.
Biden thanked those companies for working with the administration to provide 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 continued to push his infrastructure agenda, Biden repeatedly recalled stories of families walking into McDonalds parking lots during the pandemic to connect to Wi-Fi.
“How many people have you seen in McDonald’s parking lots with their kids accessing the Internet in their cars?” In a speech in Scranton last October, Biden told a story he still remembers on Monday.
“How many times have you seen a mom or dad pull into a parking lot outside of McDonald’s and just be able to get online so that kid can literally do their homework during a pandemic,” he said. “It’s just not right. It’s not who we are, and we’ve seen how important high-speed internet is during the pandemic.”
Families with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level or with family members participating in one of several federal programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Pell Grants, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income, are eligible for this program. program. Americans can check their eligibility at Getinternet.gov or by calling 877-384-2575.
The administration’s efforts to lower internet costs for families come ahead of a dire inflation report expected on Tuesday, as Biden fights to lower prices for Americans ahead of the midterm election season.
“My top priority is fighting inflation and keeping prices down for families and the things they need,” Biden said Monday. “Today’s announcement will give millions of families a little more, a little more breathing space to help them pay off their debt.”
ABC News’ Armando Garcia contributed to this report.