As the cost of Internet access continues to climb, getting online is becoming harder for many Americans. Especially those who live in low-income households. But the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering new legislation that would subsidize broadband Internet costs.
The proposal is intended to update the Lifeline subsidy, which has been around for decades. Adopted in the mid '80s, the Lifeline subsidy offers discounted phone services for low-income families to help them stay connected.
But due to the rapid expanse of technology, the Lifeline subsidy is already outdated. These days, people rely more on the Internet and cellular services to communicate than they do landlines. Should the new legislation be adopted it could be a game-changer for the estimated 5 million American families who don't currently have Internet access.
If adopted, the subsidy would make low-income households eligible for a $9.25 monthly contribution toward their Internet expenses. Considering the average cost of basic Internet services is $30-$40 per month, this subsidy could make a big difference. And in areas where discounted services are provided, recipients of this subsidy could gain access to the Internet for free.
Affordability is just one obstacle that stands in the way of Internet access. There are several other factors that contribute to the problem, including poor infrastructure in certain low-income areas, which causes poor connectivity and slower processing speeds.
Access to computers is another challenge. For many, cellphones are the only way to access the Internet. This presents several disadvantages, such as making it more difficult to apply for jobs since they have limited tools to create resumes and cover letters.
There was a time when Internet access could easily be viewed as a nice commodity, but things are much different now. Today, almost everything we do has an online component. Things that were once done manually, such as filing income taxes, now require people to go online. And this makes not having access to the Internet a huge disadvantage.
Backers of this new legislation hope it will make a difference for low-income families, and help narrow the current gap. But what do you think? Is Internet access so important that it should be subsidized? Let us know in the comments.