Electronic income

America is cutting the cost of high-speed internet for low-income homes, why this move is essential

In our modern world, where technology is continually advancing, more and more businesses, services and employees have migrated online. As a result, people without a high-speed Internet connection may find it more difficult to search for and apply for a job, use financial services, or complete work and school obligations. Therefore, many believe that free internet access should be a human right, as it would enable billions of citizens to lead a “minimally decent life”.

It seems the White House agrees. On May 9, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the expansion of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the launch of a website to help people sign up for it. In addition, they said they have secured private sector commitments – agreements with 20 internet service providers to reduce high-speed internet costs for low-income US families. It might even reduce internet costs to zero for some.

(Credit: AP’s Andrew Harnik)

The president said that 40% of American families (tens of millions of households) will soon be eligible for free internet thanks to a $14.2 billion federal grant to the CPA. It’s part of the $1 trillion infrastructure package (the bipartisan Infrastructure Act) that Congress passed last year. The CPA provides monthly subsidies of $30 ($75 in tribal areas) on internet service for low-income households, which means households receive a $30 or $75 discount on high-speed internet .

By “high-speed internet,” the White House means a plan that delivers 100 Mbps download speeds anywhere the ISP’s infrastructure can handle it.

The 20 ISPs involved cover more than 80% of the US population in rural, suburban and urban areas. These companies are required to lower prices or increase speeds so that all ACP-eligible households can get high-quality internet packages for up to $30 per month.

About the CPA, who qualifies and how to register

The ACP is the largest broadband Internet accessibility initiative in US history.

A household is eligible if one of the following conditions is true:

  • Your annual income meets federal poverty guidelines (at or below 200%). For example, if you have a three-member household, your combined income must be $46,060 or less. If you are single, your income cannot exceed $27,180.
  • You or another member of your household participate in one of the following programs:
    • Some Tribal Assistance Programs
    • Federal Pell Grant (obtained in the current award year)
    • Federal assistance for public housing
    • Free and Discounted School Breakfast Program or School Lunch Program
    • safety rope
    • Special supplementary nutrition program for women, children and infants
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Veterans pension and survivors benefits
  • You meet the eligibility requirements for an existing low-income Internet program offered by a partner broadband provider.

More than 11.5 million families have currently signed up for ACP with any of the more than 1,300 internet service providers participating in the program.

broadband Internet users
(Credit: August de Richelieu of Pexels)

Registration is easy. The White House has developed the getInternet.gov website to help Americans determine their eligibility and apply for CPA.

First, make sure you qualify. Next, visit the webpage and follow these steps:

  • Select the method of qualification you want by choosing “Qualify using your household income” or “Qualify through a government assistance program”.
  • Click Apply Now after answering the previous questions.
  • You will be redirected to a Federal Communications Commission web page where you will enter your personal information such as your name, date of birth, identity card and address. Then click Next and proceed as instructed.

Once your application is approved, you can proceed to the following final steps:

  • Contact one of the partner Internet service providers.
  • Tell the provider that you have applied for ACP and choose an internet plan.
  • Your ACP benefit applies to the plan you choose.

The following Internet service providers participate in the ACP:

  • Hello Communications
  • AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom)
  • Altice (Optimum and Suddenlink)
  • amaze
  • AT&T
  • breezeline
  • Comcast
  • Comporium
  • Cox Communications
  • Frontier
  • IdeaTek
  • Jackson Energy Authority
  • Mediacom
  • MLGC
  • Spectrum (chartered communications)
  • Star
  • Verizon (Fios only)
  • Vermont Telephone Company
  • Vexus Fiber
  • Wow! Internet, cable and television

If your provider is not listed, the CPA can still reimburse you. Use the Companies Near Me tool on the website to browse the more than 1,300 internet service providers that offer ACP service.

Biden says expanding internet access is a priority

Biden prioritized improving high-speed internet in rural and low-income areas during his White House bid and infrastructure bill.

The CPA’s press release reads:

“High-speed Internet service is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. But too many families are going without high-speed internet because of the cost or having to cut back on other essentials to make their monthly internet service payments. Reducing prices, including the cost of high-speed internet service, is President Biden’s top priority. »

This relates to a recent study by the University of Birmingham which champions the idea of ​​free internet connectivity as a basic human right. This suggests that people unable to connect to the internet lack meaningful means to influence and connect with the global players that shape their daily lives. According to the report, free internet access could defend life, liberty and freedom from torture. Moreover, it could help billions of people to live “a minimally decent life”.

Study author Dr Merten Reglitz, Senior Lecturer in Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham, explained:

“Internet access is not a luxury, but rather a moral human right. Everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global media – provided free to those who cannot afford it.

Without such access, many people have no meaningful way to influence and hold supranational decision makers and institutions to account. Consequently, these people have no say in shaping the rules they must obey and which determine their chances in life.

Exercising freedom of expression and obtaining information is now heavily dependent on Internet access. For example, much of today’s political debate has taken place online, and politically relevant information is shared on the Internet, which means that the relative value of these freedoms for people “offline” has diminished.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Biden spoke about low-income families struggling to get stable Wi-Fi so their kids can do their schooling and homework remotely.

The Democratic president said at a White House event last month honoring the national teacher of the year:

“If we didn’t know it before, we know it now: high-speed internet is essential.

Now all other nations must follow suit for a truly connected global society.