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Federal Internet Incentives See Low Take Rate in New Jersey

Fewer than 20 percent of eligible New Jersey households have taken advantage of federal government subsidies to help them afford high-speed Internet connections, the White House said Thursday

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(TNS) — Fewer than 20% of eligible New Jersey households have taken advantage of federal government subsidies to help them afford high-speed internet connections, the White House said Thursday.

That amounts to 161,767 households that have enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, funded in President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. An estimated 918,000 other eligible New Jersey households have not yet filed for the benefit, the White House said.

That had Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday asking Gov. Phil Murphy to help spread the word.

“For far too long, high-speed internet has been out of reach for far too many,” she wrote to the governor. “With your help, we can connect more New Jerseyans with high-speed internet and the opportunity it brings.”

Harris also touted the program during a speech the same day in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“In the 21st century, high-speed Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity,” Harris said during a visit. “It’s as basic as is what we have come to accept over generations: how electricity is a necessity.”

“Every person in our nation, no matter how much they earn, should be able to afford a high-speed Internet plan,” she said.

Under the program, eligible households receive a discount of up to $30 a month of their bill, plus a $100 discount to buy a laptop, desktop or tablet. Several internet providers, including Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications, offered connections for $30 a month, meaning that customers didn’t have to face any out-of-pocket charges to go online.

High-speed internet was crucial during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing patients to talk to their doctors, families to see to each other virtually, and small businesses to expand their online ordering and keep their doors open,

The total of 1.1 million eligible low-income New Jersey households was based on the latest data and below the initial estimate of 1.6 million released during debate on the infrastructure measure.

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Eligible households have income at no more than 200% of the federal poverty level, which is $27,750 for a family of four, or already participate in a provider’s low-income internet program.

They also are eligible if a household member receives Medicaid, food stamps, aid through the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, free or reduced price school lunches, federal public housing assistance, Supplemental Security Income or a veterans’ pension and survivors benefit, or a Pell Grant, or already receives subsidies for phone or internet service under the Lifeline program.

“This program is a game changer for those struggling with rising costs and lack of internet access, so it’s crucial that we keep getting the word out and make it as accessible as possible,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist.

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