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Government launches low-cost and free internet plans

The initiative is part of a $1 trillion infrastructure package

Internet network connections
Photo (c) Yanawut Suntornkij EyeEm - Getty Images
More than 20 internet service providers (ISP) are partnering with the U.S. government to reduce or eliminate the cost of high-speed internet service for millions of Americans.

The White House has announced that the ISPs -- including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon -- cover more than 80% of U.S. households. Eligible households will pay no more than $30 a month for service. After a refund, millions of households will get free service.

Under the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), the government will work with the private sector to increase the number of connected homes in the U.S. and remove cost as a barrier. The program is part of the $1 trillion infrastructure measure Congress passed in 2021.

“From large providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon serving dozens of states, to smaller providers serving rural areas like Jackson Energy Authority in Tennessee and Comporium in North Carolina, the commitments will allow tens of millions of ACP-eligible households to receive high-speed internet at no cost,” the White House said in a statement.

How to qualify

Households can qualify for this new benefit based on income. They can also qualify through their participation in one of several other federal programs, like Pell Grants, Medicaid, or Supplemental Security Income. 

People who are participants in those programs won’t necessarily have to take any action. The White House says the agencies that manage the programs will reach out to households that qualify for ACP through programs they help administer. 

For example, people who receive Supplemental Security Income should be on the lookout for a contact from the Social Security Administration. Contact will be made with participants who have a “My Social Security” account. The White House estimates that there are about 1.6 million people in that program.

Outreach efforts

Contact may also come from city and state governments. The White House said officials in Michigan; Massachusetts; Philadelphia; Mesa, Arizona; and New York City will send text messages to millions of eligible households.

The government has set up a website – GetInternet.gov – to help consumers see if they qualify. It also provides a way for households and individuals to sign up and find the participating ISPs in their local area.

The White House estimates that 48 million households—or nearly 40% of households in the country—qualify for the ACP either because their income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, or because a member of the household meets qualifying criteria.

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