Tuesday, November 21, 2017

FCC votes to scale back program to help low-income households access phone and internet

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 today along party lines to begin scaling back a federal program that helps low-income Americans access phone and internet services, saying it's necessary to reduce fraud, waste and abuse. The Lifeline program, which was established in 1985, expanded to include broadband last year, and gives participating households a $9.25 credit per month to use for internet services, Selena Larson reports for CNN.

The immediate fallout of the vote is that a $25 extra subsidy for homes on tribal lands will be rolled back to apply to rural areas only. That benefit stacks on top of the $9.25 subsidy.

The FCC is still considering a few other related issues, including one that prevents internet resellers (i.e., companies that don't create their own infrastructure) from providing Lifeline support, which means that some in the program might not be able to stick with their current ISP or sign up for one in the first place.

Another proposal would cede federal authority to approve internet providers to the states in which the ISPs would operate. The FCC blocked nine companies from participating in Lifeline in 2017.

And commissioners are also mulling a proposal to cap the program's budget at $820 million instead of the current budget of $2.25 billion."Some of the proposals will go out for public comment before the commission meets to vote again next year," Larson reports.

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