Last year’s federal infrastructure spending bill is about to pay off for low-income households in need of broadband Internet service. Local providers are rolling out options that will let them get high-speed Internet connections at no charge.
The infrastructure bill set aside $14 billion to provide a monthly subsidy of $30 for Internet service to families earning no more than twice the official poverty level. For a family of four in Boston, that comes to $55,500 or less.
But the major local broadband companies — Verizon Communications, Comcast Corp., and Astound Broadband (formerly known as RCN) all offer services that deliver broadband to low-income families at a cost of $30 or less. So when the subsidy is factored in, these families won’t have to pay for Internet service.
Comcast said it will provide subsidized broadband service with a download speed of up to 100 megabits per second. Or a customer can choose a slower service with 50-megabit speed, along with an Xfinity Mobile telephone account, and pay nothing for both services.
The two-decadelong effort to narrow the “digital divide” and ensure people with low incomes could afford Internet access took on new urgency after the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and businesses nationwide to shut down. Last year’s infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in Novemberset aside a total of $65 billion in an effort to provide universal Internet access.