Low-Income Households May Soon Receive Internet Subsidies

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The Internet has brought us many wonderful things over the years, from cute cat videos to instant access to information to whatever this is. And as ubiquitous as it can sometimes seem, we still live in a world where not everyone has the means to get connected. The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission estimates that only half of the United States' low-income households subscribe to broadband Internet, and most who don’t cite cost as an issue. The New York Times reports that the FCC is expected to approve a proposal soon that will result in monthly subsidies for nearly 40 million people.

According to a blog post by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the new subsidies will be a part of the FCC’s newly modified $1.5 billion Lifeline program, which began in 1985 to give low-income families access to phone services.

The post reads: “At a time when our economy and lives are increasingly moving online and millions of Americans remain offline, it doesn’t make sense for Lifeline to remain focused only on 20th century voice service.” The proposal, once approved, will offer families $9.25 per month to be used for phone and/or Internet, with “minimum service standards” in place so that the “hard-working Americans who support the program won’t be paying for second-rate service.”

CNET points out that not everyone at the FCC is sold on the proposal. Commissioner Michael O'Rielly wrote on the FCC blog that the plan 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. In sum, it’s a recipe for disaster, and I can’t and won’t be part of it.” The FCC is set to vote on the proposal on March 31.

[h/t The New York Times / Ars Technica]