As the FCC looks at revamping the current Universal Service Fund (USF), Representative Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet, has introduced a new bill that would provide discounted Internet access service pricing to poor and underserved subscribers. Currently, the FCC is looking at how to restructure the USF, which is used to pay phone companies and cable operators providing phone service. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that it would incorporate potential changes for the USF as it develops its national broadband plan for Congress.
Matsui's proposed bill, the Broadband Affordability Act of 2009, would have the FCC "establish a broadband program that provides low-income Americans living in rural and urban areas with assistance in subscribing to affordable broadband internet service." The new legislation would in effect expand the USF's Lifeline Assistance program for universal broadband adoption.
Matsui pointed out that even in her home state of California, there's a large disconnect between the broadband haves and the broadband have-nots. Although 96 percent of California's residents live in an area with broadband access, most of the people who actually are connected make more than $80,000 a year, while only 58 percent of residents that make less than $40,000 can afford a $60.00 a month broadband package.
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