The Federal Communications Commission’s March 31 decision to expand its Lifeline program to assist not only with telephone service access but also with Internet service access could benefit 6.4 million low-income seniors who currently do not have broadband Internet access where they live, according to Tom Ferree, chairman and CEO of technology organization Connected Nation.
Since 1985, the program has subsidized traditional telephone service for low-income consumers to lower the cost of their broadband bills, currently by $9.25 per month. For the first time, it will support stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages, according to the FCC.
Also benefitting will be 1.4 million low-income veterans and 10.8 million children who live in low-income households, Ferree added.
The FCC’s action came one week after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Comcast announced a pilot program to reduce the “digital divide” for public housing residents, including senior citizens. Effective March 24, eligibility for Comcast’s high-speed Internet adoption program, called Internet Essentials, was extended to public housing residents in Miami-Dade County in Florida and the cities of Nashville, TN, Philadelphia and Seattle through HUD’s ConnectHome initiative.
The Internet Essentials program provides high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150 and options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. The company also is specifically testing its Internet Essentials program for low-income older adults living in Boston, Palm Beach County in Florida, San Francisco and Seattle.