The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently released a report on the importance of broadband and a program the FCC is considering which would help expand broadband access to low income areas. The FCC is considering including broadband as a part of their current Lifeline program. Founded in 1985 the lifeline program was created to ensure that phone service was affordable for low income individuals. In 2008 the commission added low cost wireless providers to the program and the FCC is now considering including broadband. The FCC will be accepting comments on this program until the end of the month and will then decide whether to roll out the program nationwide.
The CBPP’s report focuses on the importance of broadband to the average American focusing on 6 main categories: job search/work performance, education, health care, government services, electronic commerce and civic participation. In terms of job search and work performance the report notes that an increasing number of people do their job search online and that those who do their job search online find work 25% faster than those who use other means. When one has a job internet is often expected, according to a study of Comcast’s target low-income family internet Essentials service nearly 50% reported that their jobs expect them to have internet access. For education the report talks about the increasing prevalence of online assignments in the classroom and the dependence of students of the internet for research and reading to help them with their studies, which puts those who do not have high speed internet at home at a serious disadvantage. For health care those who do not have high speed broadband are less equipped to do background research on doctors, procedures, or symptoms they have and thus struggle to make informed decisions. Government services are increasingly online, in 45 states at least 1 of the 5 major aid programs have an online application and those who do not have a computer at home will not be able to apply for these programs as quickly, forcing them to go longer without receiving benefits. Much like health care, information about purchases and prices of commercial products is increasingly available online, thus those with an internet connection of a great advantage in finding the best deal. Lastly, lack of internet access makes it more difficult to keep up on political news or to do research and thus makes it much more difficult to make informed political decisions or get involved.
Access to broadband internet varies greatly depending on your income level. A recent census report found that 95% of people with income $150,000 or more had access to high speed broadband while only 47% of households with income of 25,000 or less did. This disparity is why this new FCC program is so important. To read the full CBPP report go to http://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/fcc-broadband-initiative-could-reduce-barriers-to-low-income, to learn more about the lifeline initiative and the proposed reforms go tohttps://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-takes-steps-modernize-and-reform-lifeline-broadband, and to leave a comment for the FCC by the end of the month go to https://www.fcc.gov/comments.