Just two weeks after House Republicans released their poverty plan with the principle that all “should have the chance to make the most of our lives” and “break free” from poverty, they’ve proposed legislation that would do the opposite. Among other impacts, the bill, scheduled for a House vote tomorrow, would undercut the Federal Communications Commission’s rule that modernizes its “Lifeline” program by letting it subsidize broadband services.
Lifeline now provides low-income households with monthly subsidies to help cover basic telephone services, but a new FCC rule expands its reach to broadband, which would help many low-income households and their children clear a large hurdle to advancement. The House bill, however, would prevent the FCC from providing such subsidies for mobile devices and would restrict its current program for mobile phones. (Under the House bill, the FCC could subsidize broadband services provided through landlines, but in part due to the cost of computers, a significant — and growing — share of low-income and other households rely on mobile phones for Internet services.)
Less than half of low-income households have a high-speed Internet connection at home, despite mounting evidence that Internet use is now central to fully participating in modern society. As detailed in this CBPP report, it is especially essential to promoting upward mobility.
The CBPP report also describes how access to broadband is increasingly fundamental to other aspects of life as well.
The House bill would undercut the rule’s ability to subsidize broadband services, making it harder for many to get ahead and violating the House Republican poverty plan’s principle objective.