California Congresswoman Introduces Affordable Broadband Bill

Doris Matsui, a Democrat Congresswoman from California, has introduced a bill entitled the Broadband Affordability Act of 2011, crafted to help make broadband services more available for lower-income American families.

Under the Matsui-sponsored legislation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would establish a Broadband Lifeline Assistance Program under which customers would receive a discount on their monthly Internet bill.

Households must meet federal low-income guidelines or qualify for social services such as food stamps, school lunch, or Medicaid to be eligible for the program.

Revenue for the program would come from broadband providers and not taxpayers. The model is similar to assistance already offered to low-income families for basic telephone service, under the FCC's Lifeline Assistance Program.

Matsui offered a similar bill in September, 2009 that was never signed into law, but was included in the FCC's National Broadband Plan.

"Income should not hinder the ability of hard-working American families to attain broadband services that have become a necessity, not a luxury in our technologically-driven economy," Matsui said. 

"This legislation will ensure all Americans have equal access to affordable broadband services," she said.

The bill, which is technology neutral, also requires the FCC to regularly examine the market for the prevailing price for service and access speed, directs the FCC to use the same eligibility criteria used under the Lifeline telephone service program, and limits eligibility to one subsidy per family.

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