Cheri Bustos: Everyone deserves affordable, high-speed internet access – Galesburg Register-Mail

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos

When the global pandemic hit Illinois and shelter-in-place mandates took effect, our families were forced to switch their everyday lives from in-person to online. Work meetings, school and even going to the doctor all shifted to online locations, making high-speed internet access as essential as electricity or gas. 

But for many of the hard-working families I serve in Congress, high-speed internet simply wasn’t available. 

Take the story one parent shared with me: Her family didn’t have access to broadband at home, but her teenager’s classes all required the internet to do their homework. The solution? Their son would drive back to school after dinner and sit in the parking lot to access the Wi-Fi.

And it’s not the first time we’ve heard a story like that. In Illinois, 228,000 residents don’t have broadband. And for many, cost is a huge barrier: Nearly one in five U.S. households living on less than $30,000 don’t have internet. 

We live in the digital age — access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet is a necessity.

That’s why, as a member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband, I applaud the Biden Administration for taking a monumental step forward in our shared goal to make sure all of our families – regardless of geography or income — can stay connected.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden unveiled the new Affordable Connectivity Program. It’s a game-changer. Simply put, this program will make it easier for low-income families and individuals to get high-speed internet service. 

As part of the $65 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this new program allows tens of millions of American households to reduce their internet costs by up to $30 per month. 

Here’s how it works: 

Anyone can visit to see if they are eligible, based on income or participation in federal programs such as Medicaid, SNAP or WIC, among others. You can also find a full list of participating service providers in your area. 

Twenty leading internet service providers throughout the United States have committed to delivering more affordable internet through this program. The participation of major companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast means that 80 percent of the U.S. population is covered, including about half the rural population. Plus, each provider is offering families who qualify for this program the option of choosing at least one high-speed plan, fully covered. 

Additionally, President Biden announced an agreement with internet providers to offer high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 a month. This public-private partnership means eligible households can get high-speed internet at no cost when paired with the Affordable Connectivity Program. 

As of now, more than 1,300 internet service providers, big and small, participate in the program, with more than 11.5 million households receiving benefits through it. 

Now, millions of Americans can access fast internet and good download speeds, with no data caps or extra fees. This will help ease the financial burdens many American families and individuals experience and help make sure no one has to make the tough choice between paying for household necessities or helping their family get ahead with high-speed internet. 

As we continue our push to close the nation’s digital divide, I’m proud to say the new Affordable Connectivity Program is a step in the right direction.

Rep. Cheri Bustos is a Democrat representing Illinois’ 17th Congressional District. She serves on the House Appropriations and Agriculture Committees and is a senior member of House Democratic Leadership.

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July 5, 2022 at 09:26AM

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