FCC to Propose Monthly Internet Subsidy for the Poor
FCC, The Federal Communications Commission, is all set to provide a monthly subsidy for internet broadband for low-income households. This is being done to reduce the digital divide between poor and rich. According to the proposal, $9.25 will be provided as a broadband subsidy for low-income households. This proposal is a part of a broader overhaul of the FCC’s Lifeline program which is providing the subsidy for phone services to the poor since 1985.
According to the chairman of FCC, Tom Wheeler, internet access is essential for low-income households to manage work and school properly. Unemployed workers miss out jobs that are only listed online. Students have to go to fast food restaurant to use Wi-Fi to do their homework and the senior citizen cannot look up for health information when they are sick.
44% of consumers who subscribe mobile broadband have to cancel or suspend their services due to lack of finances. 48% of the consumers who access the internet through smartphone had to cancel or shut off services due to financial hardship.
Wheeler, in one of his speech, told that narrowing the digital divide could help address national challenges like income inequality, economic growth, and job creation. People who use welfare programs are eligible for the program but can receive only one lifeline subsidy per household.
Wheeler’s proposal has been opposed by Republican commissioners. According to them, the subsidy will exceed the commission’s budget and will increase the price for all. Michael O’Rielly, Republican commissioner wrote on a blog post that “Such irresponsible action will balloon program plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse, and result in higher phone bills for every American including those already struggling in the current economy”.
According to him, it’s a recipe for disaster and can’t and won’t be part of it.
However, FCC will vote at the end of this month, March 31st, on whether to expand phone subsidy to cover internet access for low-income Americans. It is expected that the proposal will be approved by the majority.
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