Among those may be a pressure campaign, not unlike the Obama administration’s Operation Choke Point, to exert pressure at the very source.
The Biden administration announced on Monday that 20 internet companies have agreed to provide discounted service to low-income Americans, raising suspicious that the government may be seeking to meddle in private industries that oversee the free flow of information via the Worldwide Web.
Proponents claim the program could effectively make tens of millions of low-income households eligible for free service through an already existing federal subsidy.
Operation Choke Point, led by corrupt Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department, threatened banks with additional regulation should they refuse to comply with Democrats’ demands regarding the funding of industries such as gun manufacturers.
Holder exerted similar pressures on schools to enact new disciplinary policies, sowing the seeds of wokeism that would become the current controversy over critical race theory.
And the Obama administration flirted with imposing a national mandate on so-called net neutrality, which in fact would have been a government takeover to regulate bandwidth and other internet-related infrastructure.
Although that idea was met at the time with strong resistance from private companies invested in the broadband cables and satellites, their defenses appeared to be weakening, with California having recently enacted a statewide bill to take over control.
Others may simply be bought off if the price is right.
The $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year included $14.2 billion funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides $30 monthly subsidies ($75 in tribal areas) on internet service for millions of lower-income households.
With the new commitment from the internet providers, some 48 million households will be eligible for $30 monthly plans for 100 megabits per second, or higher speed, service—making internet service fully paid for with the government subsidy if they sign up with one of the providers participating in the program.
Biden, during his White House run and the push for the infrastructure bill, made expanding high-speed internet access in rural and low-income areas a priority. He has repeatedly spoken out about low-income families that struggled finding reliable wi-fi, so their children could take part in remote schooling and complete homework assignments early in the coronavirus pandemic.
“If we didn’t know it before, we know now: High-speed internet is essential,” the Democratic president said during a White House event last month honoring the National Teacher of the Year.
The 20 internet companies that have agreed to lower their rates for eligible consumers provide service in areas where 80% of the U.S. population, including 50% of the rural population, live, according to the White House.
Participating companies that offer service on tribal lands are providing $75 rates in those areas, the equivalent of the federal government subsidy in those areas.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday were set to meet with telecom executives, members of Congress and others to spotlight the effort to improve access to high-speed internet for low-income households.
The providers are Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum (Charter Communications), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Co., Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV.
American households are eligible for subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or if a member of their family participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press