The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a renovation to their low-income assistance program. This new assistance plan will help more than 64 million Americans to connect online, through a $9.25 monthly assistance.

Tom Wheeler, FCC chairman published the new assistance plan in his office’s website. The low-income assistance plan has been around since 1985. When the Lifeline program was established, the system then consisted of helping low income Americans afford access to vital communications, that at the time was the phone. Nowadays, internet connections have become a vital part of modern society, from homework to shopping and entertainment America’s vital communication system is the broadband connection.

Photo: Forbes
Photo: Forbes

Not everyone can afford a broadband connection, more than 64 million Americans haven’t experienced life with a household internet access. 43 percent of people who don’t subscribe to an internet connection at home say that non-affordability is the reason. While 44 percent have declared that they had to cancel the service because of financial constraints. Assured FCC’S Website in the announcement.

Most of the low-income people depend on restaurants hotspots, this not only affects the working adults or the elderly, it affects on a day to day basis American children and their right to be educated it also expands their limitations while doing assigned homework. Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner, calls this a Homework gap

“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,” declared Tom Wheeler in the announcement.

This was a proposal response to help close the gap with broadband affordability and modernizing Lifeline program, which will maintain the telephone affordability and it also re-orients its purpose to the broadband connection. Helping future subscribers  take advantage of all the benefits that broadband connection brings, from jobs to education and healthcare.

The program also renovated itself as it limited the unnecessary regulations, reducing administrative burdens and opening more the door for broadband providers to participate in the federal plan, giving the providers a good business case for participation and helping Lifeline users to gains more competitive options.

Internet providers that accept Lifeline customers are required to provide the applicants with download speeds of at least 10 Mbps and upload speeds of at least1 Mbps. Meanwhile cellular providers will give users 500MB data at a 3G speed.

Lifeline will work with a newly made National Eligibility Verifier, that will elect the subscribers based on a below income. This comes as a power check against abuse and fraudulent applicants. A third party will establish an efficient system of eligibility verification using pre-trusted programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to determine if the subject is eligible  for Lifeline.

The new version of the Lifeline program will be proposed internally at the FCC this week, and has a budget of $2.25 billion, a rough 50 percent more of its current spending levels. FCC expects to subsidize another 5 million low-income American’s Internet before nearing the gap, that hopefully will be adjusted.

Five commissioners of the FCC are expected to vote in a public meeting on March 31.

Source: FCC