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Biden administration expands free high-speed internet access to 40% of American families

Tampa Bay groups applaud expanded federal program
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Posted at 4:21 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 17:41:50-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — President Joe Biden announced Monday that the federal Affordable Connectivity Program is expanding and more than 40% of American households will qualify to get free or reduced price internet in their homes.

President Biden announced that 20 companies including AT&T, Comcast, Frontier, Verizon Fios, Spectrum (Charter Communications), Wow! and others (Allo, AltaFiber, Altice, Astound, Breezeline, Comporium, Cox Communications, IdaTek, Jackson Energy Authority, Mediacom, MLGC, Starry, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber) are now providing high-speed internet for $30 a month to those who qualify. Then, the Affordable Connectivity Program would pick up the $30 cost every month, making it essentially free for those who qualify. Americans can also choose another provider and get a $30 credit every month towards their high-speed internet bill.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity,” President Joe Biden remarked.

You can go to to see if you qualify. Those who receive federal programs like SNAP, WIC, free and reduced lunch, medicaid and others qualify. Also, low-income individuals qualify including those making around $27,000 a year and families of four making around $55,500 a year.

Alison Barlow of the St. Petersburg Innovation District is thrilled to see the expansion of the federal program and hopes it will help more families. Her group has spent the past three years trying to connect more St. Pete residents with high-speed internet and devices.

“This is exciting. It started last year with the emergency broadband benefit and to have the federal government looking for something that’s more than just an emergency fix but a longer-term fix is critical.”

The Biden administration said 11.5 million families are already taking part in the $65 billion program and they hope it will mean that no family has to choose between basic necessities or having access to the internet.

“How many times have you seen a mom or dad drive up to a parking lot outside of McDonald’s to connect to the internet so their kid could do their homework during the pandemic? It’s just not right. It’s not who we are,” Biden elaborated during his announcement at the White House Monday.

Tampa Bay leaders who are working to connect people in the Tampa Bay area with internet access said the move is essential.

“COVID really threw us all into the virtual world and forced us to get comfortable,” Barlow added explaining that everything from doctor’s appointments, to education, to church and work obligations have switched to virtual formats.

The latest census bureau data shows 44% of people in St. Pete earning less than $20,000 a year still don’t have internet access at home.

It's an even bigger concern in rural Wimauma, where the group Enterprising Latinas added several antennas outside businesses to help bridge the digital divide. The antennas provide internet access to about 500 people every day.

Santos Morales said they’ve spent three years focusing on three main missions, “connecting people, teaching people how to connect and giving them the tools to connect,” he explained.