The Biden administration, which wants everyone in the U.S. to have affordable access to high-speed internet by 2029, announced May 13, 2022, a $45 billion 'Internet for All (IFA)' initiative to pay for it. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the initiative will provide "affordable, reliable, high-speed internet for everyone in America by the end of the decade." Administration and implementation of the program will be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The announcement about the IFA initiative came on the heels of news May 9, 2022, that the Biden administration had partnered with 20 broadband providers, including AT&T and Verizon, to improve their subsidized high-speed internet plans made available to low-income Americans through the Affordable Connectivity Program.
- 'Internet for All (IFA)' is a $45 billion initiative to provide affordable high-speed broadband internet access to all Americans by 2029.
- The Biden administration has partnered with 20 broadband providers to improve its subsidized high-speed internet plans for low-income Americans.
- Funding for IFA comes from three government programs—BEAD, Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, and State Digital Act Programs.
The Internet for All (IFA) Initiative
The $45 billion Internet for All Initiative is comprised of several programs designed to build high-speed broadband infrastructure, teach digital skills, and provide the necessary technology to ensure that everyone in the U.S. is able to fully participate in society. The initiative will draw on resources from the bipartisan infrastructure law known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden on Nov. 15, 2021.
In announcing the initiative, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said, “The resources in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will allow us to bring broadband infrastructure to every corner of our country, make service affordable for everyone, and ensure users have the devices and digital skills they need. But in order to succeed, we need a whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach—everyone who has a stake in our connected future should get involved now.”
Funding for the Initiative
The $45 billion Internet for All programs launched with three funding sources:
The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program ($42.5 billion). States that wish to participate in the BEAD Program must submit a letter of intent and a planning funds budget, which will unlock $5 million in planning funds and allow states to begin creating their five-year action plan. Each participating state is guaranteed a minimum of $100 million (with additional funding dependent on coverage maps soon to be published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program ($1 billion). This program will award grants on a technology-neutral, competitive basis to eligible entities for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure, essentially any broadband infrastructure that doesn't connect to an end user.
The State Digital Equity Act programs ($2.75 billion). This series of programs includes the following:
- The $60 million State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program to help states and territories develop digital equity plans
- The $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program to let states and territories fund five years worth of annual grants to support digital equity projects and the implementation of digital equity plans
- The $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to support five years of annual grants to implement digital equity projects.
The Affordable Connectivity Program
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which was finalized in Nov. 2022 as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, provides a $30 per month subsidy to help eligible households partially offset the cost of high-speed broadband service. The subsidy is $75 per month on tribal lands.
The May 9 negotiations between the White House and 20 major broadband providers resulting in improvements to the ACP are significant because those providers cover more than 80% of the US population.
As part of the negotiated improvements, providers promised everything from boosted speeds for low-income plans to lower prices resulting, in some cases, in consumers being able to obtain access for free. Verizon, for example, lowered the price of its Fios service from $39.99/month to $30/month for a plan with download and upload speeds of at least 200 Megabits per second.
Participating ACP Broadband Providers
As part of the recent negotiations, each of the companies listed below promised to offer ACP-eligible families at least one high-speed plan for $30/month or less, with no additional fees and no data caps.
- Allo Communications
- AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom)
- Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink)
- Cox Communications
- Jackson Energy Authority
- Spectrum (Charter Communications)
- Verizon (Fios only)
- Vermont Telephone Company
- Vexus Fiber
- Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV
Listed companies serve urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country. Collectively, they offer high-speed internet services to more than 80% of the U.S. and almost 50% of the country's rural population.