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Cheap Internet program for low-income Americans launches today

Cheap Internet program for low-income Americans launches today

Starting today, eligible US residents can apply for help with their Internet bills under the new Affordable Connectivity Program. The program began today with $14.2 billion from a bipartisan infrastructure law passed in November.

Families can apply to have up to $30 per month taken off their Internet service bill. For families on eligible tribal land, the exemption is up to $75 per month. The program could help connect the millions of people who do not have access to the Internet at home, especially in communities that have historically faced greater barriers to being online.

According to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly a third of people living on tribal lands lacked high-speed internet at home in 2017. This compares with only 1.5 percent of the city's residents without high-speed Internet access. On top of limited infrastructure, cost is often another constraint. The United States has the second highest broadband cost out of 35 countries studied by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). And according to the US Census Bureau, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest poverty rates of any race group in the US.

Even to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program, one needs to be able to be online. They need to visit to apply or take a print out of the mail-in application.

Those eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program may also qualify for a one-time $100 discount for laptops, tablets, or desktop computers from participating providers (including T-Mobil, AT&T, and Verizon).

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a long-term replacement for the Temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit Program originally launched to help Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. That program offered a higher discount of $50 per month for families not living on tribal land, and would continue through March 1, 2022.

While payments will be lower for some families, the FCC expanded the criteria for who can apply. Being eligible for WIC (Food Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children) now qualifies a family for the Affordable Connectivity Program. And a family whose income is 200 percent or less of federal poverty guidelines also qualifies for the new.

More funding is on the way to close the digital divide in the US. The new $1 trillion infrastructure law includes $65 billion to boost broadband access. According to the Biden Administration Fact Sheet, more than 30 million Americans live somewhere without adequate broadband infrastructure.

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