The regulatory agency has proposed the overhaul of its Lifeline program, which at present only covers phone service, to subsidize access to high-speed Internet.
This proposal shows just how critical it is to have Internet for everyday tasks such as finding work, doing homework and keeping in touch with friends and family.
However, the FCC’s three Democrats were needed to override the opposition of two Republicans who had argued that the regulatory agency needs to root out the fraud and wastes in the existing program prior to considering pay for more new services.
Conservatives refer often to the program Lifeline as the Obamaphone program, but as the Democrats in the FCC emphasized this week, the program was created during the Ronald Reagan administration.
Tom Wheeler the FCC Chairman said he did not understand how the program that was developed originally by Republicans has now become partisan.
However, one of the Commissioners on the FCC who is Republican Ajit Pai argued the program today bears little if not resemblance to the program during the era of Reagan.
Although he did not use the Obamaphone term, he did argue the program grew in size during Obama’s two terms.
The program today, when adjusted for inflation is more than 23 times bigger than during the Reagan administration.
Michael O’Reilly a commissioner who is Republican argued that Democrats are spending as much money as possible before the end of the Obama administration.
Lifeline, which is $1.7 billion, is funded through fees known as universal service that appear on month phone bills of consumers.
In addition, to covering access to Internet, the agency’s proposal also includes measures that would crack down on the abuse of the program.
For instance, phone companies, which receive more funding for enrolling more people, would not be in charge any longer in verifying if someone has eligibility for the program.
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