The U.S. Congress was introduced to The Broadband Affordability Act on Tuesday, which will aim to help bridge the digital divide by making in-home broadband services more affordable for lower-income American families. The Act was introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), a member of the House of Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated in 2010 that 28 million Americans do not subscribe to broadband services because of affordability barriers.
The Matsui legislation directs the FCC to create a Broadband Lifeline Assistance Program in order to help make in-home Internet service more affordable. The proposal is comparable to the existing Commission’s Lifeline Assistance Program, which provides discounts on basic monthly telephone services and installation or activation fees to income-eligible consumers. Similar to the current Lifeline model, revenue for the Broadband Lifeline Assistance Program would be generated by the providers and not by taxpayers.
Each eligible household will be limited to one broadband lifeline assistance subsidy under the legislation.
Key Provisions of Matsui’s Broadband Affordability Act of 2011:
- To establish a broadband Lifeline Assistance program that will provide low-income Americans living in rural and urban areas with assistance in subscribing to affordable broadband service.
- To require the FCC to routinely study the prevailing market price for service and the prevailing speed adopted by consumers of broadband service.
- Direct the FCC to use the same eligibility criteria used under the Lifeline telephone service program for income eligible households.
- To be eligible for the program, a household must meet federal low-income guidelines or qualify for one of a handful of social service programs food stamps, school lunch, or Medicaid