Sorry, poor people: The FCC is coming after your broadband plans

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This never goes fast enough.

Poor people may soon find it more difficult to purchase subsidized broadband plans, and many of them could even be forced to find new carriers. That’s thanks to changes pushed through today by the Federal Communications Commission’s Republican majority.

The FCC voted 3-2 to scale back the federal Lifeline program that lets poor people use a $9.25 monthly household subsidy to buy Internet or phone service. The FCC proposed a new spending cap that potentially prevents people who qualify for the subsidies from actually receiving them. The FCC is also taking steps to prevent resellers—telecom providers that don’t operate their own network infrastructure—from offering Lifeline-subsidized plans.

Some of the changes go into effect immediately. For others, the FCC is taking public comment before making the changes final. A potential ban on resellers participating in the program is going out for public comment.

70 percent may have to find new providers

The proposed reseller ban would effectively force 70 percent of wireless phone users with Lifeline subsidies to find new providers, said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of two Democratic commissioners.

“Over 70 percent of wireless Lifeline consumers will be told they cannot use their preferred carrier and preferred plan,” Clyburn said. “On top of that, they may not have a carrier to turn to after that happens.”

from Ars Technica