U.S. FCC proposes taxpayer-funded broadband Internet subsidy for low-income users

“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday proposed helping low-income consumers with the cost of broadband Internet access through a program that subsidizes phone bills,” Gautham Nagesh reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Wheeler’s proposal would expand the government’s Lifeline program by giving low-income households the option to apply the subsidy to broadband Internet access, either wired or wireless. The proposal also seeks comment on whether carriers should provide a minimum level of service to consumers as part of the program, and what those service levels should be. The proposal tentatively proposes keeping the subsidy at $9.25 a month.”

“The Lifeline program has drawn criticism in recent years from lawmakers who argue it has become subject to fraud and abuse. Top Republicans of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday faulted the broadband expansion and said spending on Lifeline and other Universal Service programs should be capped,” Nagesh reports. “‘This proposal misses the mark on the reforms we need,’ Reps. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and Greg Walden (R., Ore.) said in a statement. ‘Simply expanding the program without ensuring its effectiveness or longevity is the wrong approach if we’re going to do right by those who pay for the program, and those who depend on it.'”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

SEE ALSO:

Reporter issued 3 free ‘Obamaphones,’ courtesy of U.S. taxpayers – August 1, 2013

73 Comments

    1. I am mostly libertarian but do believe in investments (not charity) by the government.

      Infrastructure and education are good examples of investments. If done well everyone in the country benefits more than the cost. (With better management the return on both could be even higher.)

      Broadband for the poor seems like it would avoid an underclass of Internet illiterates. Children need the internet at home now and who wants to hire someone who can’t email or access information at home?

      My concerns would be that (a) it really is only for the poorest of the poor and (b) a cost analysis is done to verify US citizens are getting a bargain, i.e. positive returns.

      Of course, in reality this will be decided politically without either side actually caring about whether it is a good investment with positive returns or not.

      1. Infrastructure and education are 2 of the most poorly run government “investments”. You’re brilliant in your thought pattern of what is “good”.

        1. So, we should not invest in roads, bridges, power lines, water, sewer, and no “free” education?

          What on Earth are you trying to say here?

          You want only the rich to have sewers? Go back to the stone ages for everyone else?

    2. Agreed.

      This so-called “Welfare” is really just exploiting the “Poor” as the financial Middleman for the Government to shovel tax money to the coffers of the big Corporate ISP Cartels/Oligopolies…

      The appropriate way to serve the Poor (& all consumers in general) is to disrupt the ‘Natural Monopoly” structure which has allowed ISPs to effectively set whatever rate they want, all while providing the “Comcast Quality” level of customer service.

      Keep in mind that Comcast’s level of corporate profit is ~18%, which is in line with what Apple gets – – but Apple has _differentiated_ products, whereas Comcast is a “Dumb Pipe” provider of a simple _Commodity_, which classically never can justify profit margins this fat (commodity markets typically operate much closer to ~5%): the bottom line is that their own SEC filings show that their market lacks adequate competition.

  1. When Democrats talk about helping the poor, they don’t mean with their own money. They mean using other people’s money.

    Which is why the U.S. (and most of Europe) is in the fscking mess they’re in today. (And I’m not excusing G.W. Bush, either. He was a Democrat spender with an elephant button on his lapel. A RINO when it came to spending. Awful.)

    This time, the Democrats want the dwindling number of actual producers in the U.S.A. to pay for the rapidly growing cadre of layabouts’ free porn viewing, most certainly.

    I have one question: When is enough enough?

    If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand. — Milton Friedman

    U.S. National Debt upon Obama’s inauguration: $10.6 trillion.
    U.S. National Debt today: $18.3 trillion.

    Obama has added more to national debt than the previous 43 presidents combined. He’e either stupid or a traitor – or, from what we’ve seen so far, both.

    http://www.usdebtclock.org

    1. .You lie about Obama. You know he has cut the debt in half, after Bush started with a surplus and rand up a $16.5 trillion deficit. But people like you know nothing but lies and racist hate.

      1. I hope you’re joking. If not: I do not lie. These statements are facts. Therefore either you are lying or you are woefully uninformed.
        U.S. National Debt upon Obama’s inauguration: $10.6 trillion.
        U.S. National Debt today: $18.3 trillion.
        Obama has added more to national debt than the previous 43 presidents combined.
        http://www.usdebtclock.org

        1. One glaring problem you’re not mentioning with this (because it doesn’t fit with your Republican agenda) is that Obama was saddled with not one but TWO expensive wars that W had started, both of which were continued for a while then somewhat wound down by Obama.

          My cousin just got re-deployed to Afghanistan, so the gaping wounds W put into America are STILL bleeding.

          Next, you also omit that an incoming president is stuck in his first year with the budget passed by his predecessor, so whatever debt was added in 2009 was W’s, not Obama’s (just like Bush’s first year was actually Clinton’s budget).

          Finally, the economic collapse of 2009-2010 was in large part caused by deregulation of the banking industry by Republicans in the name of “free market”….which opened the way for corporate greed to once again take over, resulting in packages of securitized mortgages (not worth the paper printed on) being sold as if they were gold.

          And let’s not forget…that massive TARP bailout? Signed by W.

          But as usual, you don’t let these pesky “facts” get in the way of your “Obama sucks” story. Problem is, we’ve all heard it and know it’s a story of Fox News-perpetuated lies and half-truths.

          And for the record, I’ve been disappointed with Obama, too (though I know that he was greatly hindered by the political deadlock in Congress).

          I have trouble hearing misleading or false statements without refuting them, though.

        2. A couple of problems with your debt rant:

          A significant portion of that debt was to pay for Dubya’s and the NeoCons 2 wars of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is hardly Obama’s fault.

          Another significant portion was driven by entitlement programs locked in regardless of whomever was/is in the White House. That is also hardly Obama’s fault.

          Again, the Republicans have not submitted a balanced budget sine Dwight Eisenhower- someone whom many would not even consider a Republican by today’s standards.

          Nixon, Ford, Saint Reagan, Papa Bush, Bush the Idiot never submitted and finished a year with a balanced budget. Those would all be every Republican President in over 50 years. So much for Republicans being the party of fiscal responsibility.

      2. Another low information voter. I’ll bet he actually believes that Obama cut the debt.
        The sad truth is that Obama has given us more debt than any other president and many Americans don’t even know this.

        1. There is a difference between annual budget deficits and national debt. In fact, the annual deficit was $1,294T in 2010 while the 2016 deficit is projected to be $474B. (2015 will be $580Bish)
          What many American don’t realize was that W was left with an annual budget surplus of $127B and left office with an annual budget deficit of $1,413T.
          Conduct two wars, reduce taxes and that is what you get. Add a recession/depression with crap wagon economic management and, voila, a disaster cake.

      3. Uh, F15/T16 is right. But your comment is wrong and rude I have a hard believing you are serious.

        Bush exploded the debt starting wars and the first bailouts. Then Obama doubled down on wars, bailouts and the debt.

        Anyone know of a presidential candidate of either party that is vocally supportive of a balanced budget amendment?

        That is the only way we will ever have the discipline to consistently avoid deficits and eventually pay off the debt in our grandchildren’s lifetime.

        1. In fact, Obama ended the Iraq debacle and is about to end Afghanistan and here is a record of the annual budget deficits.
          2010 2,162,706 3,457,079 -1,294,373
          2011 2,303,466 3,603,059 -1,299,593
          2012 2,449,988 3,536,951 -1,086,963
          2013 2,775,103 3,454,647 -679,544
          2014 3,021,487 3,506,089 -484,602
          2015 estimate 3,176,072 3,758,577 -582,505
          2016 estimate 3,525,179 3,999,467 -474,288

          Mending the totally disastrous mess Bush left is taking time.

      4. You have your terms confused. The deficit or annual shortfall has gone down under President Obama in the last two years. But the total debt over his term is greater than any other president before him mostly because he doubled down on most of President Bush’s most questionable policy choices.

        Of course this has been the case for all Presidents since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971. It’s just that some years we take in more tax revenues than others. In fact, this last year the government took in more revenue than it ever has. It still wasn’t enough to match our spending though and therefore we still had a deficit it was just lower than it has been in years.

    2. According to your initial statement, Democrats do not pay taxes. You have such a warped view of the world that debate is fruitless. You will not, possible cannot, change your mind or open it to change. You are simply hopeless.

      1. What do a couple of dozen people not understand about Fwhatever’s post?

        “When Democrats talk about helping the poor, they don’t mean with their own money. They mean using other people’s money.”

        Democrats pay taxes, too. That means that the assistance is also funded by them.

    3. Your interpretation of the data is completely flawed. The annual deficits were already climbing north of $1B annually when Obama took office and inherited a near-Depression on top of TWO active wars. It takes time to turn that disastrous freight train around, regardless of your political affiliation.

      I am not saying that someone else might have done a better job than Obama. But given the Congressional gridlock and hostility on top of the economic situation, I doubt that Reagan or any of your other favored Presidents would have fared much better.

      I already know what your response will be. No need to post…really.

      1. I have always wondered about people who post political screeds in tech forums. I think of them as like the Seventh Day Adventists who knock on my door every other week.. If I don’t answer, they leave an illustrated pamphlet describing how evolution fails according to the Bible.

        1. It is unclear, but I assume that you are referring to Fwhatever. If you are responding to my post, then I can only say that I do not initiate any of this political B.S. on MDN, and I try to limit my responses to Fwhatever and his cronies. Sometimes, however, I feel a need to refute the FUD that he spews so often. The extremists are poisoning this country by attempting to convince people that there is only one right way to think/believe and that the solutions to all of our woes are so very easy – cut taxes, eliminate regulations, etc…. and let the capitalist feee market take care of everything with maximum efficiency. Too bad that corporations do not have a conscience, even if they are “people.”

      2. You mean to say deficits were climbing north of $1 trillion. Though lower in recent years the deficits have been in the hundreds of billions.

    4. Cannot stand Obama, but the 2 Presidents that exploded the Debt as a percentage of what they inherited were:
      Saint Reagan
      Dubya Bush

      The last balanced budget was Bill Clinton.
      Obama has reduced the debt relative to GDP faster than any recent President.

      Not sure how any of this has much to do with phones.

  2. Quotes from three of my favorite people:

    • “The Federal Government should be the last resort, not the first. Ask if a potential program is truly a federal responsibility or whether it can better be handled privately, by voluntary organizations, or by local or state governments.” — Donald Rumsfeld

    • “There isn’t one thing the federal government does that anybody in Big Business would emulate, at least not in the profit sector.” — Rush Limbaugh

    • Every time the government grows we lose more of who we are. — Glenn Beck

  3. Let the “low income” consumers learn to prioritize what’s important and what is not. Too many times I see “low income consumers” wasting money on cigarettes, booze, junk food, and other non-necessities. Perhaps if they stop wasting their money they can afford internet service. If they can’t, tough. I pay a lot in taxes every year and I am not interested in funding someone else’s life. Call me insenstive, and asshole, what ever. I believe that true compassion is teaching people how to take care of themselves rather than give them everything they want or need.

    1. Nice little straw man you’ve set up there Howie. So low income consumers are fat drunk layabouts spending all their money on cigarettes and non-necessities.

      It’s not hard to dislike such people (as you obviously do), but they’re hardly the majority. Most are people looking for a break–and not much of a break. You conveniently forget the enormous breaks given to high earners and the generations that came before. I guess it’s just easy to feel morally superior–especially when you’ve done little to earn such a sense of superiority.

          1. Looking out for oneself with a minimum of greed is the right goal.

            There are plenty of people who leech more than the people who have little. How many ? People who leech have much much more than the people who have little. MUCH more.

            Stop blaming people for being poor. They want to be that way ?

            Some poor have poor health and will never get “better.” Some have poor health and can get better.

            There are millions of job vacancies in the US above the “working poor” level. Student debt makes good people into indentured servants. Decent education and domestic manufacturing and decent health care for all will make the USA and any country into a place worth living.

            1. Yea, some choose to be poor.
              They choose by spending their money on beer, junk food, video games, cable TV instead of bettering themselves.
              They choose to be poor by being lazy, not educating themselves, not looking for a better job, not wanting to do the best at work and hey I can just steal what I want.
              They choose to be poor by not being responsible and having kids out of wedlock or too many kids with too many girlfriends or boyfriends.

              No one wants to be responsible for their OWN actions. It’s easier to cry to the government, gimme, gimme, gimme.

      1. The premise in your response indicates you believe a government handout is the best way for a low-income person to obtain “a break”.

        Many people believe that the best source of “breaks” for low-income earners (and, in fact, everybody in our country) is a mix of hard work, imagination, and the employment of one’s God-given talents to serve others. That opportunity is there for anyone in this country; those who take advantage of it already get their “breaks”, and those who don’t are, well, low-income earners.

        1. True, but this ignores the bigger picture, which namely is that opportunities aren’t really “there:”

          Opportunities have been systematically constrained by Corporate America and leveraged into profits.

          Case in point: the real underlying reason why Internet Access is so expensive (thus prompting proposals to subsidize the poor) is because the market isn’t a true ‘Free Market’ with competition to drive value (eg, lower prices) to the consumer.

          And similarly, while we can look down our noses at the ‘poor’, consider ultimately where this proposed subsidy money actually goes: that “poor” consumer is merely the MIDDLEMAN between the Government and the ISP.

          So how is it that we’re not calling a Spade a Spade and recognizing that this porgram is merely yet another example of Government Welfare to Corporate America (namely the big ISP’s)?

          -hh

    2. Howie:

      Your comment makes me sad that people think that way. Sure, there are some who game the system (many are quite wealthy), but please consider that there are people who make very little money cleaning the toilets where you work. Aren’t you pleased that somebody is willing to do that job? How about the poor folks you pick the produce you eat? Are they also undeserving of some compassionate assistance?

      Yes, I can call you insensitive and an A-Hole. But I hope that you’ll take a second look at the people who are working long hours, but make very little money.

  4. Sheesh!

    When did it become everyone else’s responsibility to buy stuff for losers?

    When I work, I do not work for strangers, but for me and my family.

    Why should my hard-earned money be confiscated and given to people who would gladly play the knockout game on my skull.

  5. Another corporate gift disguised as help for the poor. Hell, if you want to give comcast, time-warner cable, charter, verizon, at&t a subside, just say so. This bereanbob, jackass that he is, doesn’t realize who is getting money. What a dumb ass!

  6. Since broadband is generally overpriced in the US, subsidizing the existing rate structure and delivering more customers to it with public money doesn’t seem like the best idea. Probably smarter to roll out the information superhighway like we did the Interstate Highway system in the ’60’s and bring fiber to every home in the country.

      1. My ISP is CenturyLink and the service is DSL for $49.99/month. They’ve told us and others that they won’t be improving the service beyond DSL because of the expense. There’s a limited number of lines available and you can only get one when someone else cancels their service… or dies.

        New homes in this area are stuck with satellite at about $100+/mo minimum, or a small, local wireless service (for $79/mo) that’s limited to line-of-sight connections… and run by a guy who won’t provide service if he doesn’t like you.

        And apparently he doesn’t like me.

        1. Similar story here in NJ … Verizon has been trying to get out of the copper wire business and force their customers over to FIOS – – even though they’ve stopped expanding their fiber infrastructure.

          And in the news just last week, the State has given them the green light:

          http://www.nj.com/cumberland/index.ssf/2015/05/state_approves_verizon_deregulation_deal_opponants.html

          “Giercynski previously said that state regulations have inhibited Verizon’s ability to remain competitive with other service providers that are not required to follow such regulations. He has said that the agreement “levels the playing field.””

          Translation: Verizon’s product quality had a minimum standard by regulation … but with that removed, they’re now chasing after Comcast in a ‘Race to the Bottom’.

  7. The REA (Rural Electrification Act) helped modernize the rural communities. A fundamental tool of electricity and phone service helped the entire nation.

    In addition to food, shelter and basic health care, a reasonable phone or internet is both decent and helpful to the economy.

    The U.S. can afford to properly educate, provide health care and give jobs to its citizens.

    Otherwise, we’re back in the 1930’s and earlier.

    As part of this, reasonable internet and phone access is a fundamental portion of what a citizen needs. For those who disagree, this means that a phone and internet is not necessary. If this is true, prove it by doing without.

    1. They already have cell phone service. Use that for their internet access like I am doing right now on my phone. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it or you need to change what you do for an occupation. Get a better job or better education.

      1. Not every person has a decent phone. (by the way, what is a decent phone). Moreover, a decent phone is not exactly a substitute for internet service for jobs. (to support this point, consider the opporite, would you really want to do all your work on an iPhone, even if it is the best phone ?).

        Now to implementation of the principles of education and employment.

        As mentioned by other people above:

        Option 1) directly provide money or subsidies or price discounts or equipment to consumers

        Option 2) Reduce taxes on corporations and hope for trickle down theory

        Option 3) encourage competition to lower prices.

        Option 4) cut sales taxes on phones , internet.

        As for me, I support of the 4 under certain circumstances.

        Option 3 and 4 is the easiest to start with. Throw out stupid laws.

        Options 1 and 2 take deeper thinking and I don’t exactly like option 2 for now.

    2. They aren’t talking about adding infrastructure here they are simply using tax dollars to pay a company with an existing network.

      If they used the money to pull fiber to every home then I could be onboard with this. As it is described it is simply theft to pay a crony and calling it compassion.

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