Sunday, 29 May 2022

48m American households could get subsidised broadband – but for how long?

By Rob Chambers, Total Telecom
Wednesday 11 May 22

Biden says that many will ‘get on for nothing’ but experts say subsidy cash could run out by 2025

Twenty US internet companies, including AT&T, Frontier, Cox and Verizon have committed to provision of high-speed internet services to qualifying low-income households for no more than $30 per month. Combined with existing federal Internet subsidies means that for many the government will cover the full cost of connectivity…

Twenty US internet companies, including AT&T, Frontier, Cox and Verizon have committed to provision of high-speed internet services to qualifying low-income households for no more than $30 per month. Combined with existing federal Internet subsidies means that for many the government will cover the full cost of connectivity.

At a Rose Garden event, President Biden said “And if you qualify, you’re gonna get a $30 credit per month toward your Internet bill, which for most folks will mean they get on for nothing”.

The deal, part of the $1tn infrastructure package passed by Congress last year, is available to households that earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level or who receive some form of government aid, such as food stamps or Medicaid. It is available in areas where 80% of the US population, including 50% of the rural population, live. In total the White House estimates that 48 million households could benefit from the programme.

The 20 providers have undertaken to deliver speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, fast enough says the White House for a family to work from home, complete schoolwork, browse the Internet and stream high-definition movies and TV shows.

However the scheme is not without problems. The very people it is meant to benefit are typically not online and therefore are more difficult to reach, increasing reliance on state and city governments and charitable organisations to spread the word, whilst some experts are concerned how long the scheme will last. Some estimate funding for subsidies will run out by 2025, potentially leaving recipients having committed to an additional monthly bill that may suddenly lack subsidy support.

The full list of CSP’s involved in the scheme comprises Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum (Charter Communications), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Co, Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, Cable and TV.

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