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FCC to consider increased oversight of low-income broadband subsidies

FCC to consider increased oversight of low-income broadband subsidies
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a proposal to curb what it sees as widespread abuse of a subsidy program to help low-income households connect to broadband and phone services.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, circulated the proposal among fellow commissioners Monday to make it harder for people to fraudulently claim the benefit for deceased or duplicate subscribers.

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The FCC’s Lifeline program offers $9.25 a month to low-income consumers to help them subscribe to broadband services. Conservatives have pushed to rein in the program after government watchdogs found that thousands of ineligible subscribers had been enrolled, including nearly 50,000 deceased individuals, according to an FCC inspector general report last year.

The proposal introduced on Monday would require carriers participating in the Lifeline program to verify that subscribers are alive before enrolling them or issuing reimbursements. It also would prohibit Lifeline carriers from using commissions to incentivize their employees to enroll more beneficiaries.

Furthermore, the proposal calls for new rules requiring carriers take additional steps to verify subscribers’ eligibility for the program.

The proposal has not yet been made public by the agency. It’s unclear when the FCC plans to vote on it.