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House Bill Would Subsidize Broadband Access for Low-Income Americans

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, June 14 2011

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Ca.) today introduced legislation that would subsidize broadband Internet access for low-income Americans by having service providers discount their monthly bills.

The legislation, the Broadband Affordability Act of 2011, would also require the Federal Communications Commission to keep tabs on the market price and speed of broadband service. The bill would not require the FCC to make that public, a spokeswoman for Matsui said, but it doesn't preclude the idea — and that provision may be included in a later version of the bill.

Broadband access in this country has more problems than cost alone, but cost is certainly one of them — see Larry Lessig's talk at Personal Democracy Forum 2011 for his take on that.

The legislation specifically calls for a broadband lifeline assistance program, similar to a lifeline program the FCC already maintains for telephone access. According to a release from Matsui's office, revenue for the broadband lifeline program would be generated by Internet providers — "Lifeline customers would simply receive a discount on their monthly Internet bill," the release says. Where the providers turn to in order to extract the funds for that discount, it seems, is still up in the air.

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