More than 10 million households have enrolled in a broadband subsidy program offered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the White House announced.
Vice President Kamala Harris praised the Affordable Connectivity Program, previously called the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a program that offers monthly discounts for eligible Americans on their broadband bills. It also offers a one-time discount for people to buy devices to help them get online.
Harris called the enrollment of 10 million households a “historic accomplishment.”
“There are so many reasons why it is so difficult for people in our nation to access reliable high-speed internet. And, today, we are here to talk about one of the most common reasons: cost—the expense of it. Half of all the people who do not have high-speed internet say it is because the monthly cost is too high,” Harris said during a speech on Monday “Every person in our nation, and every parent, no matter how much they earn, should be able to access high-speed broadband Internet. And that is why we are here today.”
Harris added, after announcing that the program had reached 10 million enrollees, that: “This milestone means more entrepreneurs are building digital businesses, more families are staying connected, more children in our country are able to do their homework at home. And this is only the beginning.”
Specifically, the Affordable Connectivity Program allows for enrollees to get a $30-per-month discount on broadband bills, with the number rising to $75-per-month on Tribal lands. It also allows for eligible homes to get a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.
The program was initially launched as the Emergency Broadband Benefit, created as part of a coronavirus relief bill. It was scheduled to end once the allocated funds ran out or the administration declared an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the program was re-named and extended indefinitely after the bipartisan infrastructure law allocated around $14 billion for it to continue.
The pandemic highlighted the country’s digital divide, the gap between those who have access to affordable internet service and those who don’t. Research published last year found that the gap was as high as 42 million people.
Some of the criteria for homes to be eligible for the program include: being enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, WIC, or Lifeline; having an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines; participating in Tribal specific program; or having a child enrolled in a free or reduced-price lunch program.
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