FCC head seeks to narrow 'digital divide' with new proposal
NEW YORK - The head of the Federal Communications Commission is proposing that the government agency expand a phone subsidy program for the poor to include Internet access.
The FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has called broadband a critical service for modern life.
But many low-income people don't have access. According to a Pew Research Center report from 2013, 70 percent of U.S. adults have a high-speed Internet connection at home. Only 54 percent of households earnings less than $30,000 a year do.
The FCC says low-income Americans are more likely to rely on smartphones for Internet access. According to the Pew report, 67 percent of households that make less than $30,000 a year have home broadband or a smartphone.
The program, called Lifeline, has been funded by surcharges on telephone customer bills. It was started in 1985 to subsidize home phone service, and expanded in 2005 to cover pre-paid wireless phones.