Friday, May 29, 2015

FCC proposes Internet subsidy that will help low-income rural residents get broadband access

In a move that could expand broadband access to rural areas, "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday proposed helping low-income consumers with the cost of broadband Internet access through a program that subsidizes phone bills," Gautham Nagesh reports for The Wall Street Journal. The "proposal would expand the government’s Lifeline program by giving low-income households the option to apply the subsidy to broadband Internet access, either wired or wireless." 

FCC said that "less than half of households making less than $25,000 a year have Internet access at home, compared with 95 percent of households with incomes of more than $150,000," Nagesh writes.

The proposal "seeks comment on whether carriers should provide a minimum level of service to consumers as part of the program and what those service levels should be," Nagesh writes. "The proposal tentatively proposes keeping the subsidy at $9.25 a month."

The Lifeline program was started under President Ronald Reagan to cover the basic cost of phone service, Nagesh writes. "It was expanded in 2008 under President George W. Bush to include wireless phones and currently serves roughly 12 million households, which qualify if they are eligible for other federal aid programs like Medicaid or food assistance."

The proposal has already drawn criticism from top Republicans of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who "faulted the broadband expansion and said spending on Lifeline and other Universal Service programs should be capped," Nagesh writes. FCC plans to vote on June 18 on opening the proposal up for comment. (Read more)

No comments: