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Digital access / Federal government

What’s this about free internet?

The Biden administration cut a deal with 20 internet providers that closes the gap between what the government provides in internet assistance for low-income families and what companies charge qualifying customers.

A new deal provides free access to millions of Americans (Photo by Iliescu Victor Pexels)

Today, President Joe Biden announced that 20 internet service providers have agreed to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The ACP launched at the end of 2021, replacing the Emergency Broadband Benefit launched in May 2021 via federal stimulus funding. Families who qualify can receive a monthly benefit of $30 per month for internet bills ($75 per month on Tribal lands), and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a computer.

Here’s why Biden’s announcement today is news: Before, many internet service providers offered discounted internet packages for low income families — but they were in excess of $30 a month, meaning that the families would have to pay the difference or lose internet. That meant that there was still a gap in the digital divide, both in urban and rural communities, where people, including kids who need to use the internet for school, had no access.

The 20 internet companies to enter the new deal cover all states in the US and include Comcast, Verizon and Spectrum. All will offer special plans of $30 per month for qualifying households. Coupled with the ACP benefit, these households will have free internet.

So, how do you know if you’re qualified?

If you are eligible for government assistance, including SNAP, Medicaid, Federal School Lunch Program, Veterans Pension, Federal Housing Assistance, Pell Grants, Lifeline or Bureau of Indian Affairs general assistance, you qualify for ACP.

Depending on your family size, you may qualify according to your household income, even if you do not receive assistance. For example, if you live in the contiguous 48 states and have a family of five, you may qualify if your annual household income is less than $64,940. Check your eligibility here.

Companies: Comcast / U.S. Government / Verizon

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