A new broadband subsidy could be included in the earned benefits available to low-income individuals. The Federal Communications Commission proposed a plan on Tuesday that would provide a subsidy of just over $9 per month for broadband services.
The proposal is an update to the already existing Lifeline program which helped to provide telephone access to low-income individuals before the advent of the internet or broadband service. Internet providers that accept Lifeline customers would be required to provide them with download speeds of at least 10 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps, according to the proposal.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn outlined the idea in a blog post that underlined the increasingly high prices broadband subscribers pay for service. “Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefitting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history,” the regulators wrote.
As CivSource has previously reported, affordability is a significant concern that often keeps people from having service at all.
The proposed updates to the Lifeline program also include a regulatory review process that will remove some rules that may limit provider participation in the program or that only apply to now obsolete technologies.
Wheeler and Clyburn also released a fact sheet outlining some of the details of the proposal. In the fact sheet, the regulators suggest creating a National Eligibility Verifier as a neutral third-party entity that removes the opportunity for providers to enroll ineligible subscribers. The fact sheet also suggests that the program would require income eligibility verification and/or proof that an individual is already receiving some form of earned benefit like TANF or SNAP. The initial budget proposal for the program is $2.25 billion.