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FCC remakes phone subsidies for poor, shifts to broadband

updated 03:40 pm EST, Tue January 31, 2012

FCC outlines changes to LifeLine subsidy program

The FCC has updated its plan to help out poor Americans reach the web. The changes to the 25-year-old Lifeline program, as outlined on Monday, will focus on eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse of the program, with the aim of saving $2 billion over the course of three years.

The near-term target for 2012 is $200 million in savings. The FCC will create a National Lifeline Accountability Database to prevent multiple carriers from receiving support for the same subscriber. Lifeline provides $10 per month to families who qualify. Also new will be a one-per-household rule to all providers in the program, with a household defined as an "economic unit." This will allow multiple families living at the same address to be connected and use the subsidy.

As part of the changes, the LinkUp program, which offered a one-time, $30 credit for installing landlines, will be discontinued. LinkUp will remain in effect in Tribal lands. Toll Limitation, which was a subsidy for carriers for blocking or restricting long-distance service, has also been phased out.

The savings will go toward launching a Broadband Adoption Pilot Program with a budget of up to $25 million. It will aim to increase broadband use for low-income Americans by subsidizing monthly connection costs, though applicants will need to supply their own hardware. Some of the money may also go towards increasing digital literacy at schools and libraries.

The program is funded by the public through their landline and cellphone bills.

Concerns have existed from the start that the repurposed funds could be abused. The updated proposals at least partially address this by preventing carriers from getting more than they're owed.

by MacNN Staff



  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The carriers wouldn't charge the government more than they are entitled to, would they?

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969



    These people can afford DSL, etc., computers, possibly smart phones? Not the ones I've known. Something sounds screwy here.

  1. jameshays

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Ask that they shut off their cable and satellite dishes and sell the non-essentials in their life. If they have none, their use for a mobile phone is also probably limited. The library would be a good place for people to get online as needed. Advice: pick up a good book while at the library and learn a new skill. How much more needs to be taken off my back when solutions are already present. Poverty in America is a state of mind and a choice. We don't need more employers handing out jobs, we need more employers. Empower people to start their own business and let them keep the rewards for doing so. Handouts do nothing more than destroy productive people regardless if they are providing or receiving end.

  1. mgpalma

    Joined: Dec 1969


    will focus on eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse

    "will focus on eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse"

    But wait, it's a federal program right? So what would be left of it??

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