Dem bill backs broadband for low-income web users

Dem bill backs broadband for low-income web users
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A group of Democratic lawmakers announced legislation on Monday to have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) develop a program to provide broadband to underserved communities — less than a week after the agency’s chairman announced his intention to do just that.

Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Chris MurphyChris MurphyDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate panel demands Trump's legal rationale for shooting Syrian jet Dems limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote MORE (Conn.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (Calif.) are backing the bill, which orders the FCC to expand the Lifeline program to provide broadband to low-income people.

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The program currently subsidizes phone service in areas where providers would otherwise not be doing business.

The bill would direct the FCC to create a program to allow consumers to accept a bundle of services subsidized through Lifeline, including “broadband, mobile, [and] basic telephone services.”

The bill also takes steps to increase accountability for the program, which conservatives criticize as being poorly managed. The commission would be required to establish a “national database” to determine who is eligible for the program and require there be a Government Accountability Office study of the program a year after the bill passes.

The announcement comes one day before a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on the program, and less than a week after the commission announced its proposal for the overhaul of the program.

The proposal is supported by all three Democratic members of the FCC, including Chairman Tom Wheeler.

It is not clear yet if the proposal, which has to be approved at the commission’s meeting this month, would cover just wired broadband or also include mobile broadband.

Though it is likely the FCC’s lifeline reform will be approved at the commission’s meeting this month, legislation on the topic could conceivably inculcate the program against changes that might be instituted by new commissioners.

The bill is designed to support the FCC’s likely action, said Matsui Chief of Staff Julie Eddy — and the lawmakers indicated that they were supportive of the agency taking action.

“Whether through legislation or FCC action, we must act to help bridge the digital divide and level the playing field for all Americans — that's why my colleagues and I are committed to making Internet accessibility for all a priority,” Booker said in a statement.

Legislation is also backed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Energy and  Commerce Committee, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee’s Communications and Technology subcommittee, Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.), Rep. Peter WelchPeter WelchDems push leaders to talk less about Russia House Dems slam Trump's 'betrayal' on drug pricing Washingtonians take center stage at Will on the Hill MORE (D-Vt.) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.). Co-sponsors in the upper chamber include Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Dem senator: Trump 'doesn't respect' the presidency Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOnly Congress can enable drone technology to reach its full potential Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (D-Conn.) and Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenElection hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security Commerce secretary spoiled Treasury secretary’s secret wedding: report Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.).