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Expand chart
Data: Axios research. Note: Prices do not include taxes, except Starry.; Table: Axios Visuals

The results of a new Census Bureau report reveal significant overlap between areas of limited broadband access and concentrated poverty.

Why it matters: "Inequality and the lack of broadband access have become inherently intertwined in the U.S.," Francella Ochillo, executive director of Next Century Cities, writes for Axios Expert Voices.

  • "Income inequality is at a 50-year high, and many states with the highest poverty levels — Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas — are also the most disconnected," writes Ochillo.

Driving the news: Earlier this month, an appeals court upheld the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules, but the court also required the agency to address concerns over how the change will affect internet access subsidies for low-income Americans.

What's available: Several major internet service providers offer discounted plans for eligible low-income consumers.

  • Most require at least one member of the household to be enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (as with Spectrum Internet Assist) or food stamps (as with AT&T Access) or Section 8 rental assistance (as with Cox Connect2Compete). Starry Connect is available to residents of affordable housing communities served by Starry.
  • Other restrictions can make it difficult to navigate the sign-up process. For example, many require that applicants have not been subscribers to the provider's services for 30 or 90 days prior to signing up.
  • Speeds vary by the type of lines available where the customer lives — copper or fiber. With Frontier Fundamental (available in California), download speeds range from 1 mbps to 50 mbps.
  • There are often data caps. AT&T Access provides a monthly allowance of either 150GB or 1TB of data per month depending on service, and customers are automatically charged $10 for each $50GB of data used in excess of the plan.
  • A Mediacom spokeswoman says it does not have accross-the-board data caps for Connect2Compete customers, but handles overages on a case-by-case basis.
  • A Comcast spokesman said the company has a data cap of 1 terabyte per month in 2/3 of its footprint, which applies to Internet Essentials.

Comcast estimates it has connected 8 million low-income people since its program launched in 2011. In August, it expanded eligibility to include all low-income consumers in its coverage areas that participate in some kind of federal assistance .

  • Comcast considers the program such a success that executive David Cohen encouraged other companies to talk to him about using Internet Essentials as a model for similar programs.
  • He told the audience at a cable industry conference they could even rebrand Comcast marketing materials.
  • Comcast has had a few briefings with smaller cable companies about Internet Essentials, but no partnerships to announce, a spokesman said.

The bottom line: From the beginning, broadband access was promoted as a means to reduce inequality between urban and rural America, but despite these programs to bridge this original "digital divide," stubborn gaps remains.

Go deeper: Axios special report — the new digital divides

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the attribution of a section to Expert Voices contributor Francesca Ochillo.

Go deeper

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of Tonga's volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Haʻapai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could be contaminated.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

New York AG alleges "significant evidence" of Trump Organization fraud

Combination images of former President Trump and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York's attorney general filed a motion Tuesday seeking to compel former President Trump and his two elder children to appear for sworn testimony in her office's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings.

Why it matters: Attorney General Letitia James revealed new details in the court filing and a statement on her office's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, including a preliminary finding alleging the company used "fraudulent and misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits."

5 hours ago - Technology

Ex-N.Y. Post digital chief files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment

Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Former New York Post editor Michelle Gotthelf is suing her former employer, its parent company News Corp. and two editors, alleging she was reprimanded after complaining to senior executives that she was sexually harassed by retired N.Y. Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. The N.Y. Post issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: "I felt that I owed it to myself and I owed it to the news organization and the people who answered to me," Gotthelf, who was a long time editor at the N.Y. Post, told Axios in an interview.