If you asked anyone last year where they thought Tom Wheeler was going to take the FCC, today would not be it. He sided with the Net Neutrality, and is taking up the cause of extending subsidies beyond phones to Internet access.

Someone has replaced ex-lobbyist Tom Wheeler with this new Tom Wheeler. Anyone else waiting around wondering when the bad news is going to hit?

Wheeler will declare access to broadband high-speed Internet as a public good. He will introduce plans to expand current communications subsidies for the poor to Internet access.

Why is this important? A Pew Research study in 2013 found only 54% of people making less than $30,000 per year had broadband services. That compares to 88% of people making $75,000 or more.

The Internet has earned its status a ‘public good.’ Living in rural Alabama, I can tell you firsthand the world opens up when you have access to high-speed Internet. It took until I was in college for Comcast to finally make it to where I live.

Yes, my brother and I remember the days of the dial-up Internet. Nothing like the sound of a 56k modem firing up.

Under the new plan, the FCC will be making adjustments to the 1985 Reagan administration plan (Lifeline) that provided low-income households with landlines.

It was expanded in 2008 to include the cost of cell phone service. To qualify, households must have incomes at 135% or below the federal poverty level or receive Medicaid or food stamp benefits.

The new expansion will give recipients the option to receive either phone services or Internet access or a combination package. Broadband penetration isn’t 100% across the United States, so poor households would have the ability to choose between the options.

fcc broadband subsidies

Before some asshole dubs it Obama Internet, just stop. Are there abuses in the Lifeline program? Sure, but there are abuses in everything. Government programs? Yep. Private companies? Check. Life in general? Hell yes.

Cherry-picking situations to serve a broad argument proves boredom and ignorance.

Yes, more can be done to remove the abuses, but halting the program? Sorry, but there’s a kid out there without Internet at home who could be the next great business leader.

In 2012, the FCC instituted new safeguards to prevent households from getting more than one subsidy. In March 2015, the GAO found the number of people enrolled in the Lifeline program had dropped to 12 million from 18 million. It showed curbs of abuses in the program.

Don’t buy into the news pieces that point out a person has six phones and is abusing the system. Name a station that will ever do a special report on the family that needs the subsidies and is working to better themselves.

If you’re thinking about waiting for one, don’t. It’s not going to happen.

FCC Chairman will unveil plans today for the new program. Some will rightly wonder where the money is coming from? On your cell phone bill, there’s a surcharge that funds the Lifeline program.

Yes, it’s a cell phone tax. No, taking it away is not going to lower your phone bill.

Do you really think wireless carriers are altruistic? Come now. Kevin Durant isn’t going to walk in and save you money. You can, however, take your personal weedeater or chainsaw to your monthly bill.

It’s mildly entertaining until you figure out it didn’t lower your bill. Plus, you have a mess to clean up now.

Gear. TV. Movies. Lifestyle. Photography. Yeah, I’m the type who sees a shiny object and is immediately captivated. Wait... There’s another. You can reach me at marcus@newsledge.com

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