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White House, ISPs Partner to Lower Internet Costs, Raise Speeds

The Biden administration says it has commitments from 20 Internet service providers to cut prices and raise speeds for high-speed Internet, noting that the 'service is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity.'

FlickrCC/Metal Chris
The Biden administration has secured commitments from 20 leading service providers to get more Americans connected to high-speed Internet, the White House announced Monday.

The group of 20 includes large providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, as well as smaller providers in rural areas, including Jackson Energy Authority in Tennessee and Comporium in North Carolina. The commitment they made involves the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), with the Biden administration specifically asking Internet companies to either raise speeds or lower prices so they can offer fast Internet at $30 per month to all households that are eligible for the ACP.

The administration has classified sufficiently high-speed Internet as a plan that offers download speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second. In its announcement, the White House noted that some of the participating companies have already taken action. For example, Verizon lowered the price of one qualifying service from $39.99 per month to $30 per month, while still offering speeds of 200 Megabits per second. Meanwhile, Spectrum doubled the speed of its current $30 per month plan from 50 to 100 Megabits per second, thereby satisfying the minimum set by the ACP.

The government reports that the combined service area of the committed providers covers roughly 80 percent of households in the country, as well as nearly half of the nation's rural population. The final qualification for the commitments is that the companies do not charge extra fees for these plans or institute any data caps.

The commitments come along with a series of other related actions, too. Those moves include a website where users can sign up for the ACP, federal agencies letting people know about the ACP during other interactions, digital equity collaborations with public interest organizations, and teaming up on outreach efforts with state and local governments.

"High-speed Internet service is no longer a luxury," the administration wrote in its announcement, "it's a necessity."

Indeed, this week's announcement is part of an ongoing push for high-speed Internet to be considered a utility, more like electricity or water than like cable television. Last year's federal infrastructure act included $65 billion to boost broadband connectivity, an unprecedented investment in the nation's broadband infrastructure.

The work is ongoing, but federal money or support being given to agencies at the state and local level continues to be a foundational element, as does coordinating with private businesses.