Two short months ago, the FCC unveiled its Connect to Compete initiative that helps ensure rural consumers have affordable internet access. This week the agency introduced plans to overhaul another program that will further expand broadband access and provide discounted internet service to even more low-income families.
Speaking in Washington, D.C., FCC chair Julius Genachowski said he plans to redesign the Lifeline program long-known for helping to lessen the costs of phone service for qualifying customers. The new-look Lifeline will still help keep voice service fees down, but the program will focus more on reducing monthly broadband costs and, more importantly, improving digital literacy.
In his comments, Genachowski reiterated that broadband service is no longer a luxury and the one-third of Americans who don’t subscribe to high-speed internet service are falling behind the digital divide. He said in its current form, the Lifeline program is riddled with waste and inefficiencies, and a redesigned program would help expand the agency’s effort to increase broadband adoption and fund digital literacy training at libraries and schools.
Genachowski said rural and low-income America’s lack of broadband adoption can be pinned not only to high costs but an overall perception that internet access is irrelevant. The Lifeline program will address both needs by both lowering price points and providing Americans with the necessary digital skills to participate (and succeed) in a 21st century economy. •