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Internet Access for All: 3 Ways the FCC is Trying to Close the Digital Divide

Here are a few of the FCC’s efforts to deal with the digital divide—the good and the bad of each.

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New Lifeline pilot programs

Genachowski’s announcement on Monday signaled that change is coming to the country’s Lifeline program, but it’ll be slow. The agency will modernize Lifeline to include broadband Internet, but Genachowski also recommended putting a cap on the number of people who can qualify for the program in order to prevent  “fraud.” That assertion rubbed many civil rights groups the wrong way, particularly given the FCC’s own estimates of how many eligible participants are currently left out of the Lifeline program. 

The Commission notes that the program has about 10 million participants, and only reaches about 32 percent of eligible households. That’s not a good sign for the nearly 100 million people in the U.S. who currently don’t have broadband Internet at home. In a press release from earlier this week, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said the following:

The Lifeline program is the only program that can address this problem by systematically addressing the cost of modern telecommunications for low-income people. Limiting a program that only reaches one-third of its eligible participants before the FCC can fully assess the changes it announced today to eliminate fraud would seem counterproductive.

The FCC’s new pilot programs are expected to be launched later this year.

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