In the latest salvos over broadband access, the Federal Communications Commission, newly headed by Ajit Pai, has blocked nine ISPs from joining the federal government’s Lifeline program, which promotes broadband access for low-income households — with implications for everything from school-focused research to streaming media to eCommerce.
As reported by New York magazine, the Lifeline program allows for the establishment of a $9.25 monthly credit to be earmarked to pay for landline or mobile phone services. That has been expanded to embrace broadband. And yet, those nine ISPs have been kept from the program itself, including, said the magazine, a lone ISP that operates across as many as 40 U.S. states. The ISPs, said The Washington Post, had been cleared to operate within the program weeks ago.
Lifeline could potentially reach as many as 13 million Americans. The implication of truncated access to the program, said the Post, is that waste fraud and abuse can be avoided. Lifeline itself is funded across taxpayers’ utility bills. The FCC has said that it would, by revoking the nine firms’ participation, gain “time to consider measures” that would short circuit fraud.
Announced last year, the Lifeline subsidy has as its goal the expansion of mobile phone services and broadband access at home, with the aim of getting a broad number of companies to participate. Broader access to broadband would have benefits ranging from students accessing the internet for research to avenues for eCommerce.