FCC may offer Internet subsidies

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The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is privately circulating an order Tuesday that would start offering Internet subsidies to low-income Americans, according to the New York Times.

The order is expected to be approved by the commission on a party-line vote later this month.

The plan would expand the $1.7 billion Lifeline program, which currently offers $9.25 subsides for phone and simple cell service. Advocates have pushed to give the recipients the option to use the subsidy to pay for the cost of Internet access.

All three Democratic commissions have expressed support for the plan, but Republicans have rejected with out adding a budget cap.

Public advocates and Internet service providers and wireless carriers have backed an expansion of the program as long as other reforms are instituted.

Phone and Internet carriers do not want the burden of deciding whether someone is eligible, when they become ineligible, and the responsibility of handing out the benefits. The FCC has explored handing those responsibilities off to a third-party.

Recent Pew Research studies found that about 15 percent of the U.S. adults do not use the Internet. Those numbers are highest among those who are older, have less than a high school education, live in rural areas, or families that make less that $30,000 a year.

Pew cited various reasons why people say they do not use the internet. But one in five cited the cost required to buy an Internet connection.