A recent report suggests that the Federal Communications Commission is considering expanding broadband internet subsides through its Lifeline program.
It’s easy to take high-speed Internet for granted, but believe it or not, there are a huge number of people who don’t have any access to broadband. According to a report from the New York Times, the Federal Communications Commission has decided to do something about it. The FCC submitted a final proposal to approve a broadband subsidy for low-income households to the tune of $9.25 per month.
The New York Times reports that nearly 95 percent of households with an annual income of over $150,000 have high-speed Internet, while just 48 percent of households making less than $25,000 a year have service at home.
The proposal seeks to amend the $2 billion phone subsidy program, Lifeline. The Democratic majority among the FCC commissioners is confident that the proposal will be approved following the vote on March 31.
The Lifeline program was introduced in 1985 to help bring landline phone service to low-income households across the country. The FCC added mobile phone service to the subsidy program, but critics say the system was wrought with opportunities for abuse like double billing.
In addition to expanding the subsidy program to cover broadband access, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says the proposal includes beefing up preventative measures to minimize the potential for abuse, including appointing a third party to vet eligible individuals and keep associated companies in check. The program will also update its data collection policies to better monitor its progress.
Not everyone is happy about the idea of expanding subsidies for broadband, however. According to Michael O’Rielly, a Republican FCC commissioner, “Such an irresponsible action will balloon a program plagued by waste, fraud and abuse, and result in higher phone bills for every American – including those already struggling in the current economy.” O’Rielly added that the proposal was a “recipe for disaster.”
Whatever potential for abuse, the program is intended to give those struggling the most a chance to access the Internet that so many people take for granted.
A press release from the FCC Chairman and Commissioner can be found here.