FCC Backtracks on Subsidized Internet Services for Low-Income Households

On February 3, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its decision to reverse the inclusion of nine companies in the Lifeline program – a federal program that provides federally subsidized Internet services to low-income households – just weeks after those same companies were informed of their ability to participate in the program. According to a statement by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the initial decision to include the nine companies was a “last-minute action” taken by his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler, and revoking the nine companies is intended to allow the FCC more time to consider measures to prevent “waste, fraud and abuse in the Lifeline program.” As many as 13 million Americans who do not have broadband service at home – mainly seniors, minorities and the poor – may be eligible for Lifeline. This includes school districts in almost every state. Consumer advocates argue that the decision to remove the nine companies will make it harder for low-income households to access critical Internet services, perpetuating the digital divide.

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