An infrastructure bill was passed in 2021 by the federal government, and low-income families that need help with internet services will soon see the benefits of the funds that are available. Many internet providers are looking at their options to see what type of discounts they can offer to customers as a way to relieve some of the stress of paying for a service that’s been essential throughout the COVID pandemic. Some companies are offering internet services to households for free so that they can at least have a basic connection until they’re able to upgrade.
By the Numbers
When the bill was passed, there was $14 billion allocated to give consumers a $30 subsidy. A requirement is that consumers can’t earn more than twice the amount of the poverty level for their state or county. This amount is about $55,000 for most families with four members in the home. Companies like Verizon, Charter Spectrum, and Comcast already offer services that are about $30 a month, which means that consumers who have services with those companies likely won’t have an internet bill as long as the subsidies are available.
What Companies are Offering
Comcast is one of the primary companies that already offer low-cost internet to families who meet certain income requirements. The company offers services at close to 100 Mbps. Another option for Comcast customers is to choose an internet plan that’s 50 Mbps and an Xfinity phone plan. This would mean that the consumer would have both services without paying anything for the month.
Verizon offers faster services at close to 200 Mbps with Astound offering plans of around 150 Mbps. Both companies are offering free services to low-income families so that consumers have a way to work from home, maintain communication, and attend classes or perform schoolwork.
The issue with offering internet for low-income families has been around for about 20 years. Companies have seen that consumers might not be able to afford the services that they need, but there hasn’t been anything set aside by companies or by government agencies to help. The infrastructure bill that was passed aims to try to close the digital divide that’s in place across the country so that more people can be on the same playing field when it comes to succeeding in their careers and their education. When the pandemic caused more people to work from home and schools to close, putting students in virtual classrooms, it made the federal government take a look at how some families can get by with the services that they have while other families struggled. When the federal government saw that there was a need for more internet services and for assistance because some families simply haven’t been able to afford to have the internet in their homes, a portion of the bill was dedicated to subsidies so that more people would have the access that they need. The bill includes over $65 billion for internet funds, including the $14 billion used for the $30 subsidies. There has been no indication as to how long the funds could last, but companies are looking at ways to try to maintain the free services that are offered or to offer discounted options so that consumers don’t have to disconnect from the internet once funds expire.