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Here’s How Much The FCC Will Give Out To Help Low-Income Americans Afford The Internet

Internet Providers Should Guarantee Equal Access to All Users, Obama SaysInternet Providers Should Guarantee Equal Access to All Users, Obama Says
A man looks at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) headquarters.Photograph by Andrew Harrer— Bloomberg/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission took its first step toward making home Internet access cheaper for low-income Americans.

For the past 31 years, the FCC has provided a small credit to help poor Americans pay for phone service. Now the FCC says people can use that monthly stipend to jump online, too.

The FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to open up the program called “Lifeline” to broadband Internet service. The Lifeline subsidy is used by about 12 million Americans who qualify for federal assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps. The program gives out $9.25 a month to help people pay for landlines and mobile phones.

FCC Wants To Make Broadband Faster:

While $9.25 might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to what most monthly Internet service plans cost, it is enough to just about cover some of the $10-a-month Internet deals for low-income families from companies like Comcast and Century Link.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says today there are 64.5 million Americans living without the Internet and “missing out on the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history.”

While Pew estimates 84% of American households making more than $54,000 have broadband, that number drops to 54% of those making under $30,000 a year. The FCC’s new plan will raise the Lifeline budget to $2.25 billion a year.

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Of course, the FCC isn’t the only one trying to get more Americans online and help erase the digital divide. Earlier this year about 100 poor households in Kansas City got free access to Google’s new Internet service Google Fiber. The gesture was just a small part of the Obama administration’s ConnectHome initiative, a plan to connect 275,0000 low-income households to free Internet service.