The Biden administration has announced an initiative to reduce the cost of high speed internet, but Longmont’s municipal WiFi service said it’s already leading the way.
Earlier this month, the White House announced an effort to bring affordable, high speed internet to households across the country. Twenty internet providers committed to reduce prices and/or raise speeds to provide a high-speed internet plan for eligible households at no more than $30 a month.
NextLight, Longmont’s municipal broadband service, feels it’s ahead in the game on both counts.
“NextLight, a nationally recognized leader in internet speeds, is incredibly proud of how fast our fiber internet is and how affordable it has been for all residents,” said Scott Rochat, Longmont Power and Communications spokesman, in an email.
Rochat highlighted the high speeds Nextlight offers, which he said don’t come with hidden fees, charges for excessive downloading or a contract.
“Our focus is making things easy and accessible for our residents and businesses,” he said.
He also emphasized that NextLight has been a leader in pricing and affordability with the introduction of the “Sharing the NextLight” program in 2019 that provided free internet to income-qualifying households with school age children.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, NextLight introduced internet discounts for any income-qualifying household and increased its 25-megabit residential service to 100 megabits to ensure adequate bandwidth access.
“When the FCC introduced the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, we were able to deepen our discounts and provide free 100 megabit service to qualifying households,” Rochat said. “We also provided three-month credits for those households that weren’t income qualifying but that had financial hardships as a result of the pandemic.”
The Emergency Broadband Benefit program became the Affordable Connectivity program this year as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, dropping federal subsidies for qualified households from up to $50 a month to up to $30 a month.
“We quickly and easily made the decision to pitch in the difference, so that our qualifying customers could continue to receive the free 100 megabit or $19.95 gigabit prices to which they had become accustomed,” Rochat said.
According to the White House, nearly 40% of households in the country qualify for the Affordable Connectivity program because their income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level or because a member of the household participates in another federal assistance program.
More than 1,300 internet service providers were participating in the program with more than 11.5 million households participating as of May 9. Families can see if they qualify for the Affordable Connectivity program and claim the benefit at GetInternet.gov.
Nextlight is funded by a $45 million bond that was approved by voters in 2013, which is expected to be paid off in 2029. Rochat did not say whether paying off the bond could lower customer rates, but explained that it would open up a number of possibilities for Nextlight.
“A lot of things can change between now and 2029 so we haven't made any firm decisions yet, but we definitely want to continue to keep our customers' rates affordable and to upgrade and expand the NextLight network so that it continues to provide high-quality service to the community,” he said.