Would You Rather Have Your Internet or Phone Line Subsidized By the FCC?

STEPS TOWARDS ACCESS: Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has proposed expanding the federal program that subsidizes “advanced telecommunications services” to include access to Internet service. The $1.7 billion program, Lifeline, supports landline and mobile phone service for households with an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty line. Under Wheeler’s proposal, low-income families (including many of the 30% of Americans without Internet access) could choose between using the $9.25 per month Lifeline subsidy towards Internet or phone lines.

While praised by Wired and The New York Times’ editorial board for acknowledging the importance of Internet access for everyday activities like completing homework or applying for a job, the proposal has met pushback from Republicans in Washington, some of whom argue against further developing a program they see as mismanaged. Recent FCC votes, including the 3-2 vote on Wheeler’s proposal classifying the Internet as a public utility and supporting net neutrality in February, have neatly fallen along party lines. The FCC will vote on Wheeler’s proposal in July.

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