By Kim Hart - 03/15/10 07:12 PM EDT
Rep. Doris Matsui joined the chorus of House members praising the FCC's National Broadband Plan, giving special plaudits to the agency's focus on making broadband access more affordable.
A central recommendation of the plan would expand the "Lifeline/Link-up" program to include broadband. Currently, the program provides discounted access to basic telephone service for low-income consumers. By reforming the out-dated Universal Service Fund--an $8 billion a year program to subsidize phone service to rural and unserved areas--consumers will be able to get basic internet services as well.
Matsui said the goal is similar to the legislation she introduced last year--the Broadband Affordability Act.
“There are far too many Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide because of the high cost of broadband services today,” added Matsui. “We have learned from a wide variety of studies that the high cost of broadband services is the number one reason why millions of Americans are not connecting to in-home broadband services.
FCC officials declined to define "affordability" with a specific price, saying that is largely a function of the market. They also said it would be inappropriate to define what affordable broadband access should cost by 2020 and that the hope increasing competition will achieve the affordability goal.