Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday to meet with people who have benefited from the Affordable Connectivity Program, an effort that aims to increase the number of Americans with home access to connections. high speed broadband.
The program was funded through last year’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which allocated $65 billion to expand broadband nationwide.
“I’ll start with a simple and obvious truth: In the 21st century, high-speed internet isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Harris of the Carole Hoefener Center. “It’s as basic as what we’ve come to accept over generations, how much of a necessity electricity is.”
The broadband program makes it easier for Americans to access internet services by offering up to $30 off a month — or $75 for those living on tribal lands — on internet bills. Those who qualify can also receive a $100 rebate towards the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet, provided the family can contribute between $10 and $50 towards the overall price.
But not everyone can qualify for these discounts, as recipients must qualify either through a government assistance program, through their household income, or through their internet service provider’s low-income plan.
The effort is a modification of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, a temporary pandemic-era initiative created last year. Those who were enrolled under the previous program were automatically enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, if they met the requirements.
Those requirements have been updated slightly under the new program: Households with incomes 200% above the federal poverty level can apply, up from 135% last year; the monthly benefit for non-tribal households has also been reduced from $50 to $30 and an upselling ban is included. Americans can visit getinternet.gov to check their eligibility status.
The Biden-Harris administration said Thursday that about 1 million new households have signed up since the effort relaunched. In total, about 13 million households have registered for the program.
“Students use the internet for many reasons that are in pursuit of their education, including to attend virtual classes,” Harris noted during his speech Thursday. “Workers use the Internet to find jobs and receive training. Seniors use the internet to consult a doctor without leaving their homes. For many of us, the Internet is an integral part of our daily lives.
About 93% of Americans use the internet, according to a 2021 study by Research bench. Yet there are many barriers to home broadband access, and people from minority groups or from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to have internet access at home. Rural areas are also more likely to lack access to adequate internet services.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently announced $23.4 million in broadband access grants, split among 12 counties, which he says will “help thousands more families and businesses across North Carolina across the state to access high-speed internet and the opportunities it provides.” All ISPs that have received the grants must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program in order to receive the funds.
“Reliable and affordable high-speed internet is a necessity for all North Carolina residents to work, learn, connect and access healthcare online,” Cooper wrote in a statement, noting that nearly 1, 1 million homes in North Carolina do not have access to broadband services.
After the event, Harris convened a reproductive rights roundtable with state lawmakers and abortion providers, her fourth such nationwide meeting in a week.
“There are certain principles that are at play on this issue and in this discussion, and one of them is that everyone in America should be free to make decisions about their own bodies without government interference,” he said. -she told the assembled group, which included the executive director of a local women’s health center and the leader of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Harris called on lawmakers gathered to support Governor Cooper, a Democrat, whose veto power can block abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-led state legislature, and insisted that supporting the Abortion rights “does not require you to give up your faith or beliefs,” but rather supports a woman’s right to make that choice without government interference.
“It’s really as much as anything at stake here,” she said, adding, “It’s about one of the most important principles our nation was founded on: freedom. , freedom, the absence of government interference in the most intimate decisions which essentially concern hearth and home.”
“As we watch our highest court take away a constitutional right from the people of our country, we need to understand what that means also in terms of what we stand for as a democracy, which has set out certain principles about the rights of individuals to be free from the interference of their government,” Harris said. “It’s all at stake.”