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Published: May 09, 2022 5 min read
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It just got easier for millions of Americans to receive free, high-speed internet at home.

The White House announced Monday it has reached agreements with 20 internet service providers across the U.S. — including the telecom giants AT&T, Comcast and Verizon — to offer broadband plans that would be completely free for eligible low-income Americans. The plans provide speeds of at least 100 megabits per second “everywhere that the provider’s infrastructure is capable of it,” according to the White House.

“High-speed internet service is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity,” the White House said in a statement Monday. “But too many families go without high-speed internet because of the cost or have to cut back on other essentials to make their monthly internet service payments.”

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The newly available internet plans are part of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal broadband discount program created through the bipartisan infrastructure law, which passed in November 2021. The program rolled out earlier this winter and acts as a long-term extension to a defunct stimulus initiative that temporarily helped low-income households cover internet costs.

The previous discount internet program offered by the government came with a more generous subsidy of $50 per month for most eligible households. But because current participating internet providers have agreed to increase speeds or lower the prices for their plans, the ACP actually covers the full monthly internet bills for more people, with faster service, the White House says.

Under the ACP, the federal government provides a monthly internet subsidy of up to $30 to households that earn 200% or less of the federal poverty line or receive one of several government benefits programs, including the Pell Grant, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and SNAP aka food stamps. Households on tribal lands can receive up to $75 per month to offset their internet bills.

The new agreements make broadband free for “tens of millions of Americans,” according to the White House. In short, 20 internet providers — composed of national and local companies, covering an estimated 80% of the population — have created new monthly internet plans that are priced at or below $30 to match the federal subsidy.

However, folks who receive the benefit may use the subsidy on a more expensive plan and foot the remaining costs if they so choose. In total, more than 1,300 providers accept the subsidy.

So far, the White House says that 11.5 million households have signed up for the ACP and that nearly 1 in 4 households could qualify for a subsidy. This suggests that millions more people would likely qualify for the benefit but haven’t yet applied to the program. To bridge the gap, the White House has directed government agencies that provide benefits, such as SSI and SNAP, to reach out to qualifying low-income households.

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How to get free internet from the government

To receive the benefit, low-income Americans must first apply online, by phone or by mail. Once accepted, they need to contact a participating internet service provider, like Comcast, Verizon or one of the hundreds of other companies and sign up for a plan to apply their ACP subsidy.

The White House is trying to make the application process a little smoother. In Monday’s announcement, the White House also said it’s launching a new website — GetInternet.gov — to help folks browse participating internet providers and see if they qualify. As of Monday the site doesn't appear to be fully up and running and currently redirects visitors to an ACP info page on WhiteHouse.gov.

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