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FCC Stops Low Income Internet Program

Recently the Federal Communications Commission told nine companies, who were all part of a program made to provide subsidized internet, that they are no longer allowed to service low-income customers with the service.

This announcement was made by the FCCs new chairman, Ajit Pai. Pai reversed the decision that was made by the last FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler.

Pai, part of the new Trump administration and current head of the regulatory commission, stated that the choice to provide lower income American families with internet service was a good example of what’s called a “midnight regulation.”

The low-income internet service program, known as Lifeline, gives families a $9.25 credit per month to buy internet. The program was started back in 1985 and since then has served over 13 million American who don’t have broadband service. It’s estimated that around 900 providers are part of the Lifeline program.

Up until last year, consumers who were part of Lifeline were only able to apply for the program to obtain landlines or mobile plans. Some consumers even relate the program to the “Obamaphone” which state that welfare participant received a free phone from the Obama administration, a false observation.

Before Wheeler stepped down as chairman of the FCC on January 18th, he approved nine companies as part of the program. One company Kajeet Inc. finds this new news a bit disturbing since the company as joined with school districts in almost 41 states to provide internet in poorer communities.

In 2016, Wheeler launched the Lifeline Modernization Order. This order extended the benefits consumers were getting financially, to broadband internet. During the time Wheeler announced this order, Pai and a few other republicans were against the idea. They believed that this new order would allow abuse of the system as well as fraud.

In defense of his decision chairman Pai said it “would promote program integrity by providing the [FCC] with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud and abuse in the Lifeline program.”

Eight other companies are part of the reversal, which hasn’t been finalized yet. The FCC has the option of revising the decision within the next thirty days.

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