WASHINGTON — Kimberly Vasquez, a high school senior in Baltimore, faced a tough problem when the pandemic began. She had no fast internet service in her home, but all her classes were online.
Marigold Lewi, a sophomore at the same school, was regularly booted off Zoom classes because of her slow home connection.
Ms. Lewi spent a lot of time explaining Zoom absences to teachers. Ms. Vasquez sat outside local libraries to use their internet access and at times used her phone. The two of them helped push a successful public campaign for better and free service to low-income families in the city.
His $2 trillion infrastructure plan, announced on Wednesday, includes $100 billion to extend fast internet access to every home.
The money is meant to improve the economy by enabling all Americans to work, get medical care and take classes from wherever they live. Although the government has spent billions on the digital divide in the past, the efforts have failed to close it partly because people in different areas have different problems. Affordability is the main culprit in urban and suburban areas. In many rural areas, internet service isn’t available at all because of the high costs of installation.
“We’ll make sure every single American has access to high-quality, affordable, high speed internet,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Wednesday. “And when I say affordable, I mean it. Americans pay too much for internet. We will drive down the price for families who have service now. We will make it easier for families who don’t have affordable service to be able to get it now.”
Longtime advocates of universal broadband say the plan, which requires congressional approval, may finally come close to fixing the digital divide, a stubborn problem first identified and named by regulators during the Clinton administration. The plight of unconnected students during the pandemic added urgency.
F.C.C. announced $50 to $75 broadband subsidies for low-income families from $3.2 billion granted by Congress in December for emergency digital divide funding. Both programs involve one-time emergency funding to address broadband access problems exacerbated by the pandemic.
The administration’s $100 billion plan aims to connect even the most isolated residents: the 35 percent of rural homes without access. In those areas, the White House said, it would focus on “future-proof” technology, which analysts take to mean fiber and other high-bandwidth technology. The administration highlighted its support for networks run and owned by municipalities, nonprofits and rural electrical cooperatives. Several states have banned municipal broadband networks, and the F.C.C. failed in its attempts to overturn those bans in court during the Obama administration.