Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday to meet with people who have benefited from the Affordable Connectivity Program, an initiative aimed at increasing the number of Americans with access to high-speed broadband at home.
The program was funded thanks to last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which earmarked $65 billion for nationwide broadband rollout.
“I’ll start with a simple and obvious truth: In the 21st century, high-speed internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Harris of the Carole Hoefener Center. “It’s as fundamental as what we’ve accepted for generations, like electricity is a necessity.”
The broadband program makes it easier for Americans to access Internet services by offering a monthly discount of up to $30 — or $75 for those living in tribal areas — on Internet bills. Eligible individuals can also receive a $100 rebate on the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet if the family can contribute between $10 and $50 towards the total price.
But not everyone can get these discounts, as recipients must qualify through either a government aid program, their household income, or their ISP’s low-income plan.
The effort is a modification of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, a temporary pandemic-era initiative that launched last year. Those enrolled in the previous program were automatically enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program provided they met the requirements.
These requirements have been slightly updated under the new program: households with incomes up to 200% above the federal poverty line can apply, up from a benchmark of 135% last year; The monthly benefit for non-tribal households has also been reduced from $50 to $30, and a ban on upselling is included. Americans can visit getinternet.gov to check their eligibility status.
The Biden-Harris administration said Thursday about 1 million new households have signed up since the effort restarted. A total of around 13 million households have registered for the program.
“Students use the Internet for so many reasons related to their education, including taking virtual classes,” Harris noted during Thursday’s address. “Workers use the internet to find jobs and learn more. Seniors are using the internet to see a doctor without leaving home. For so many of us, the internet is an essential part of our daily lives.”
According to a 2021 study, about 93% of Americans use the internet Pew Research. Still, there are many barriers to broadband access at home, and people from minority groups or from a low socio-economic background are less likely to have access to the internet at home. Rural areas are also less likely to have access to adequate internet services.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced $23.4 million in broadband access grants divided among 12 counties. He said he will “help thousands more North Carolina families and businesses across the state gain access to high-speed Internet and the opportunities that come with it.” All ISPs that received the grants must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program to receive the funds.
“Reliable and affordable high-speed Internet is a necessity for all North Carolina residents to work, learn, connect and access online healthcare,” Cooper wrote in a statement, noting that nearly 1.1 million Households in North Carolina do not have access to broadband service.
Following the event, Harris called a reproductive rights roundtable with state legislators and abortion providers, her fourth such meeting nationwide in a week.
“There are certain principles at stake in 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,” she told the assembled group , which also included the managing directors of a the local women’s health center and the director of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Harris called on the assembled lawmakers to support Gov. Cooper, a Democrat whose veto power can block abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-led state legislature, and urged that supporting abortion rights “does not require you to change your faith or… give up your beliefs. “but supports a woman’s right to make that choice without government interference.
“This is really as much as anything at stake here,” she said, adding, “It’s about one of the most important principles on which our nation was founded: liberty, liberty, freedom from government interference in the most intimate.” Decisions are essentially hearth and home.”
“When we see our highest court stripping the people of our country of a constitutional right, we need to understand what that means, including in terms of what we stand for as a democracy that has established certain principles about the individual’s right to be free from interference their government,” Harris said. “It’s all at stake.”