FCC chairman to propose broadband subsidy for low-income Americans

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2015
Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler will on Thursday propose subsidizing broadband Internet for poorer Americans, much in the way it currently subsidizes phone bills, officials with the agency said.




Wheeler's proposal may involve giving people an option of phone service, Internet access, or a combination of the two, the officials told the New York Times. Any changes would modify the current Lifeline subsidy program, valued at $1.7 billion. Wheeler will also reportedly propose new anti-fraud measures.

The measure should come to a vote by FCC commissioners on June 18, and the Times noted it will likely pass given the FCC's Democratic majority. The anti-fraud measures would take effect shortly thereafter, but commissioners would then have to work on the rules and details of the broadband initiative, and hold a final vote later in the year.

Pew data from 2013 indicated that only 54 percent of those making less than $30,000 a year had access to broadband, versus 70 percent overall, and 88 percent of those with incomes over $75,000.

Currently Lifeline offers households just $9.25 per month toward phone service. When that was extended to cellphones in 2008, some phone plans effectively became free, but the FCC could have to up the subsidy to make a dent in the cost of broadband. Wheeler is reportedly arguing for minimum Lifeline service standards, which would set a basic amount of voice minutes and/or broadband speed.

Fraud is a major concern with the program, as last year the Justice Department indicted three people on charges of defrauding $32 million from Lifeline between September 2009 and March 2011. By 2012 the FCC had implemented measures such as crosschecking to prevent households from claiming more than one subsidy, and Wheeler is proposing rules like requiring service providers to not only verify a person's eligibility -- as they do currently -- but keep proof of it for any potential audits.

A Senate subcommittee, headed by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), is due to review Lifeline on June 2 and consider various ways of preventing fraud. Some other Republicans have been critical of the program, including FCC commissioner Micahel O'Rielly, who once called it "inefficient, costly and in serious need of review." A Government Accountability Office report in March noted that of the 11 central reforms the FCC started on in 2012, only seven have been completed.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    Obamanet? He liked the name for his other big freebie legislation, so...
  • Reply 2 of 68
    smurfmansmurfman Posts: 119member
    Great, more tax money burdening the middle class for a pointless governmental cause.
  • Reply 3 of 68
    schlackschlack Posts: 691member
    rather than subsidize the cable company's profit, why not require cable companies to offer reasonable (non monopolistic) prices in the first place?

    Should Comcast really be asking me for $80/month for 50mbps speeds?
  • Reply 4 of 68
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Smurfman View Post



    Great, more tax money burdening the middle class for a pointless governmental cause.



    Hardly surprising considering Wheeler was a lobbyist for the cable and cell providers. This is him paying back more to the people that got him the job.

  • Reply 5 of 68
    jbaughjbaugh Posts: 25member
    Yet another liberal government scheme to redistribute wealth frm those who earned it to those who have no right to the fruits of someone else's labor. It creates a dependent class of people who can be counted on to vote to keep the Democratic overlords in office.
  • Reply 6 of 68
    At this rate I'll be making more money by making less :/
  • Reply 7 of 68
    Ridiculous! I think libraries are here for a good reason, go there if you want to surf the web. BTW, Comcast (the only provider in my area) sucks!
  • Reply 8 of 68
    ignominiignomini Posts: 69member
    First, spend money which does not exist, then start regulating (aka restricting) everything. For those who wanted the government involved in regulating the net, I hope this ends up hitting you squarely in the wallet.
  • Reply 9 of 68
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,884member

    Another socialist program paid for by the rest of us.

    Somebody else already made the point about public libraries. I already pay library taxes of which a portion goes to provide free high speed internet access to anybody who stumbles in to the library. So, now we will be taxed yet again to offer a redundant service. The system is very, very broken.

     

    The Republican controlled Congress needs to pass a law expressly forbidding the FCC from subsidizing broadband service. That is the only way right now to stop this stupid proposal.

  • Reply 10 of 68
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member

    I am surprised by some of the heartless comments on this story. How do people expect the poor to afford internet access for their computers, Netflix streaming, their game consoles, and tablets unless we all help them? :rolleyes:

     

    -kpluck

  • Reply 11 of 68
    This is crap. How about holding companies that provide broadband to have good quality at a fair price. The prices they charge for this service is crazy.

    How about incentivize the "poor" to actually put an effort into getting and holding a job. Save the money and use it for those that are truly disadvantaged...
  • Reply 12 of 68
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,060member

    Oh my, all you people who guaranteed that Net Neutrality wouldn’t raise prices through taxes like the wireline business. What in blue blazes did you think reclassification to Title II meant anyway? You asked for it and now you’ve got it. Deal with it. Oh, now you want price regulation too? Well, THAT will encourage the providers to build their networks out won’t it. Oh, so let the government take over the broadband business now because, as we all know, the government is sooooo much more efficient than private, profit motivated enterprise. Now go and drown in your utopian Net Neutrality.

  • Reply 13 of 68
    coxnvoxcoxnvox Posts: 50member

    The cynicism in the comments so far is only outstripped by the weak, shallow, and tired arguments used to showcase said cynicism.  In reality, not a one of you will ever pay one penny for the subsidy for internet to the poor.  Some of these poor people will use the internet for nothing but entertainment and will continue to be a drain on society...this is undeniable.  But for every one of those people, there are TEN single moms working two jobs that will be able to shop around for more affordable housing, continue education through online courses, keep their kids safer through better communication options, and become a more informed voter by really learning about the world around them.

    Feel free to keep cruising through life blaming the poor for all your problems...that's exactly what the billionaires who are robbing us blind want you to do.

    Peace and no offense meant.

  • Reply 14 of 68
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,060member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

     

    I am surprised by some of the heartless comments on this story. How do people expect the poor to afford internet access for their computers, Netflix streaming, their game consoles, and tablets unless we all help them? :rolleyes:

     

    -kpluck




    Well, they already have their Obama-phones with text and data plans so let ‘em tether. What happens if everybody suddenly discovers they don’t have to work a lick and goes on welfare? Oh wait, somebody wrote a book about just that. Now let me think. Their first name was weird like Ayn or something. 

  • Reply 15 of 68
    cashxxcashxx Posts: 103member
    How about Verizon and others gouging the middle class just for internet?? I'm paying $74.99 just for 15/15. Go after these deals and get them give the middle class better prices! 15/15 isn't even highspeed anymore once netneutrality kicks in. I would think that $30-$40 would be a more fair price starting at 25/25.
  • Reply 16 of 68
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,060member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by coxnvox View Post

     

    The cynicism in the comments so far is only outstripped by the weak, shallow, and tired arguments used to showcase said cynicism.  In reality, not a one of you will ever pay one penny for the subsidy for internet to the poor.  Some of these poor people will use the internet for nothing but entertainment and will continue to be a drain on society...this is undeniable.  But for every one of those people, there are TEN single moms working two jobs that will be able to shop around for more affordable housing, continue education through online courses, keep their kids safer through better communication options, and become a more informed voter by really learning about the world around them.

    Feel free to keep cruising through life blaming the poor for all your problems...that's exactly what the billionaires who are robbing us blind want you to do.

    Peace and no offense meant.




    Where can I join your commune?

  • Reply 17 of 68
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Still cheaper, and arguably far more useful, than the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II with it's $400,000 helmets!
  • Reply 18 of 68
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,060member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cashxx View Post



    How about Verizon and others gouging the middle class just for internet?? I'm paying $74.99 just for 15/15. Go after these deals and get them give the middle class better prices! 15/15 isn't even highspeed anymore once netneutrality kicks in. I would think that $30-$40 would be a more fair price starting at 25/25.



    Look, genius-stein, you have no clue what you are talking about. Did you fail economics 101? Just arbitrarily set a price and speed because it seems fair? No consideration for cost, profit, maintenance, supply or demand? All that counts is “fairness”? Unbelievable naiveté and part of the reason these scatterbrain ideas gain traction.

  • Reply 19 of 68
    ronboronbo Posts: 669member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

     

    I am surprised by some of the heartless comments on this story. How do people expect the poor to afford internet access for their computers, Netflix streaming, their game consoles, and tablets unless we all help them? :rolleyes:

     

    -kpluck




    Netflix, no. More like bit torrent. Subsidizing the internet so they can steal movies. After all, everything is supposed to be free, right?

  • Reply 20 of 68
    coxnvoxcoxnvox Posts: 50member

    Funny how there are TRILLIONS of dollars to spend on wars that accomplish nothing, but as soon as somebody tries to do something to help people, we are FLAT BROKE! 

     

    #berniesanders

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