Trump's FCC is gutting the Lifeline service, which gives poor families a $9.25/month subsidy for fixed or mobile broadband; under the new rules, poor people will have to buy their connections from major carriers (who often don't offer Lifeline plans), and will no longer be able to use the resellers who presently constitute 70% of the Lifeline connections.
Access to the internet is a human right. Poor people who get broadband access live markedly better lives than those without, with improved health, education, civil participation, political participation, jobs, and public affairs literacy.
Especially grave is the impact of the Lifeline changes for indigenous people living on tribal lands, who rely even more heavily on resellers for coverage.
1.25 million poor Americans rely on Lifeline to access the internet.
Next on the chopping block is an ongoing effort to create a system of national certifications for Lifeline fixed broadband providers; Trump FCC chairman Ajit Pai wants to preserve the current patchwork system in which states get to decide whether their ISPs qualify under Lifeline.
Finally, the FCC has just voted to allow ISPs to shut down their copper networks without replacing them with fiber or other alternatives, potentially leaving communities with dial-up as their only fixed internet access option.
Pai says changes are needed to prevent fraud. Before today's vote, Pai said:
The reforms that we implement and propose today seek to accomplish two important objectives: (1) curtail the waste, fraud, and abuse that continue to plague the Lifeline program and (2) make Lifeline more effective at bridging the digital divide on behalf of low-income Americans.
But the FCC is already implementing "a new system of national verification to reduce waste, fraud, [and] abuse," Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said. The verifier program is still being implemented, but the FCC's majority is "discard[ing] its possibilities before we even begin," she said.
Sorry, poor people: The FCC is coming after your broadband plans
[Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica]