New Virginia Program for Discounted Internet Services

Jorge Garcia
Published Feb 8, 2024



News earlier this week came out of Richmond, Virginia, that stated families struggling at around 200% below the federal poverty line may be able to get low-cost or even free Internet from the state, along with potential laptops and tablets paid for by the state. The Affordable Connectivity Program is one of the newest government assistance programs to launch in the United States, and the gist is that Virginia families who are struggling are supposedly able to get Internet service packages for either $30 a month or free or charge.

Not a whole lot of information is known about this program to date. It's a brand new initiative coming out of Virginia, and it's not even clear if Governor Youngkin proposed it or just signed off on it. All that's known to date is that impoverished families in Virginia can already start applying for the program.

The average price of a basic Internet package in Virginia is already north of $100 per month in the state. Many critics have claimed that this is due to the fact that Xfinity (Comcast) has a near monopoly on Internet services in the state, and so they can charge whatever they want for their services. There are other services like Glo Fiber, but they're seriously hindered by regulations imposed by the government, and so these services aren't available to compete in some of the state's poorest communities. Even with a little bit of competition, however, the alternative services aren't much cheaper. If you want reliable Internet in the state of Virginia, you're likely going to have to pay over $100 every month; and that's affordable compared to other American states like New York and California, where Internet can cost you double that amount.

The real issue here for Virginia's newest program is that it's very likely following the same trajectory as other programs in other states. In other words, the program advertises itself as something available to low-income families, but when you go to sign up for it, you find out that there are other stipulations.
 

You Have to Read the Fine Print with Government Programs



Unfortunately for many Americans, these programs are not available to all people. While they say "low income" families on their face, you have to read the fine print. These sorts of programs are only available to minorities. In states like Virginia, this means black Americans. In California, it typically means immigrants. For instance, in California right now, they're opening up Section 8 housing choice vouchers via an extension of a waiting list. However, once you go to apply for this program, you will find that the waiting list extension is only for immigrants and their families. In Virginia, when you go to apply for a program like free Internet access, you will find out in a hurry that being a low income family has nothing to do with whether or not you will be accepted. Instead, it's targeting minority residents, namely black residents, and the likelihood that anyone else will receive low-cost Internet is very slim.

You might agree that these sorts of initiatives are needed for some minority groups in the United States. That's fine. Social justice is a very popular genre in America today, and millions of people believe that some groups should be excluded entirely from government assistance programs and benefits due to historical factors. The issue here is in how these programs are presented, however. Every time some government organization wants to give out grants or assistance, they always claim that it's for low income residents, in order to avoid any controversy. However, once you read the fine print, you quickly find out that these programs are only for black Americas, or BIPOC women, or the LGBTQ community. Again, you might think it's fine to have programs that target these specific groups. Though why be underhanded about it and hide the real intent behind different language? It just makes the government seem corrupt, as if they're up to something nefarious.

This program coming out of Richmond, Virginia is specifically aimed at black American families in the state. Does that mean that no other families will receive help? Time will tell on that front, but it's very unlikely that any white or Asian families will receive help. Perhaps some Latino families will qualify, if there's enough funding. This is just the way that America operates now in terms of government assistance programs. There are certain groups that need not apply.

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