Bipartisan infrastructure bill will extend broadband to low-income renters - Affordable Housing Online

Bipartisan infrastructure bill will extend broadband to low-income renters

By on November 16th, 2021

Tagged As: Affordable Housing News, Editorials

President Biden signs the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" on the South Lawn of the White House. Photo by whitehouse.gov.
President Biden signs the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” on the South Lawn of the White House.
Photo by whitehouse.gov.

Yesterday, the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was signed by President Joe Biden. It does not provide any money for affordable housing, but it does give billions to improve roads, bridges, ports, and airports. Improvements that are part of this bill will provide a lot of help to low-income renters.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will support hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs as America rebuilds its infrastructure. This will give many low-income renters new opportunities over the next few years. However, it will take some time before new projects start and new jobs are created.

The bipartisan infrastructure package does include funding that will impact low-income renters more quickly. It provides $65 billion to expand access to broadband internet. Many communities, especially in rural areas, lack access to high speed internet. This investment will help extend service to these communities that are home to many low-income renters.

But the broadband funds will not only go towards extending the network. They will also be used to lower the price of internet service, especially for low-income households.

The legislation requires that internet service providers who use the federal funds to improve their networks must also offer a low-cost, affordable plan for their customers. This will make high-speed internet accessible for millions of low-income households who have been left behind in the digital divide.

The law also includes other measures that will help drive down internet costs and inform consumers. Price transparency will now be required from internet service providers. Internet service providers will have to provide a pricing menu of all their services so that consumers can make better comparisons. This is similar to the requirements for food product labels.

There are many areas where there is only one broadband provider offering poor or expensive service. The broadband funds will also support promoting competition in these areas. This will help improve the quality of service and lower prices.

“Miami, Florida” © María Renée Batlle Castillo on: flickr.com/photos/mrbc/

The legislation also creates a permanent federal program to help more low-income households access the internet. Begun with pandemic funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Affordable Connectivity Benefit program helps low-income households pay for internet service. Set to expire in a few months, it is now extended.

During the pandemic, the program provided a $50 per month subsidy for low-income households to pay for internet service. Although the program will now be permanent, the benefit has been reduced to $30 per month.

The bipartisan infrastructure package will bring access to the internet for millions of low-income renters. This means better access to job opportunities. It means that children will be able to study at home. With the pandemic still raging in different areas of the country, low-income children will not be left out when schools shift to distance learning.

Low-income renters will also have a better chance of finding affordable housing. Renters can search through more apartment listings and better target their home searches, saving time and precious legwork.

More housing authorities are going online for Section 8 and Public Housing application portals. High-speed internet means that low-income renters can compete on a more equal footing as they search for good housing.

These broadband investments will help low-income renters as the economy begins to emerge from the pandemic. Coupled with the jobs created through infrastructure and energy projects, this legislation is a rare bipartisan effort that will have a real impact on low-income communities.

Published by

Chris Holden

Chris Holden, Affordable Housing Online's Senior Housing Analyst, has been in the affordable housing field for 25 years. Originally from Keene, New Hampshire, he has worked as a researcher, policy analyst, lender, trainer and real estate developer. He also taught political science at Keene State College. He is focused on making housing policies more accessible for low-income renters.