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The federal government has arranged for 20 internet companies "to provide discounted service to people with low incomes, a program that could effectively make tens of millions of households eligible for free service through an already existing federal subsidy," according to a story from the Associated Press.

The story notes that "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 government assistance if they sign up with one of the providers participating in the program."

The program means that "families of four earning about $55,000 annually — or those including someone eligible for Medicaid — will get a $30 monthly credit, meaning about 40 percent of Americans will qualify."

Marty Newell, coordinator for Rural Broadband Policy at the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Kentucky, tells the AP that this "might be a game-changer" for places where "slow internet has plagued residents and businesses alike," and says that his main question is, "What took them so long?"

KC's View:

One of the things that this program does, at least potentially, is enable families that have suffered through lousy internet connections to have greater access to online retailers that traditionally might not have been on their radar.  Which means that their local retailers suddenly may have stronger competition that they haven't had to deal with before.