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FAQ: HOW THE FEDERAL  GOVERNMENT PLANS TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY FROM YOUR ISPs (INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERs)


APRIL 2 -Does the idea of your Internet Service Provider tracking your online whereabouts and selling it to the highest bidder give you the heebie-jeebies? The Federal Communications Commission has a fix that might make you feel better.
The FCC is on a path to adopt the strongest privacy regulations to date for Internet service providers.The agency voted this week on a proposal for rules that will govern how broadband and wireless providers handle your personal online data. These rules, championed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would also establish the strongest set of privacy regulations ever for Internet service providers. And they'd put the agency in charge of consumer privacy, a duty previously handled by the Federal Trade Commission. "Every broadband consumer should have the right to choose how their information bits should be used and shared," Wheeler said in an op-ed published on The Huffington Post. The Internet service providers question the FCC's authority to make these rules and argue that they leave out other Internet players, which follow separate rules. READ MORE...

ALSO: 'Net Neutrality' turns 1 - Here's everything you need to know (FAQ)


FEBRUARY 25 -Emotions have run high over Net neutrality. Here, protesters gathered in California in 2014, near where President Barack Obama was hosting a fundraiser. Steve Rhodes/Demotix/Corbis
The new rules governing an open Internet reach a milestone, but not everyone is celebrating. The US government's landmark Net neutrality rules are about to mark their one-year anniversary. You'd think proponents of a free and open Internet would mark the occasion with a victory lap. It's not that simple. When the Federal Communications Commission put the Internet under stricter regulations last February 26, it wanted to make sure broadband service providers would treat all Web traffic the same. But the situation is far from settled. Broadband providers quickly sued the FCC, and the courts are now reviewing the rules. Those legal decisions will decide how the Internet works. The future looks different depending on which side you believe. The FCC says its regulations prevent big businesses from shutting out competitors and controlling the content we see on our computers, phones and tablets. The broadband players, including AT&T and Verizon, say the rules don't encourage them to invest in network upgrades, which will limit innovation and drive up prices. READ MORE...

ALSO: Verizon racks up $1.35M fine for violating consumer privacy


MARCH 7 -Verizon will pay a $1.35 million fine for use of permanent cookies that tracked customers' web activity. Verizon photo.
Federal regulators are getting serious about protecting consumer privacy online and have settled an investigation with Verizon over its use of "supercookies," which track users' online whereabouts. How much does your privacy cost? A cool $1.35 million, according to the Federal Communications Commission. On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission said it had reached a deal with Verizon over the company's use of a technology that allowed marketers to track customers' web browsing so they could provide more targeted advertising. The so-called supercookies were hidden bits of code that couldn't be easily erased when consumers cleared their browsing history. As part of the agreement, Verizon will pay the $1.35 million fine and shift from an opt-out policy to a more explicit opt-in policy for consumers. Now it will only share "supercookie" data with third parties if customers have decided to participate. The company will still be able to use the "supercookie" tracking information when customers connect to Verizon's corporate services to market its own services to its customers. The settlement with Verizon comes as the FCC prepares to take a more active role in consumer privacy by making sure broadband and wireless companies safeguard consumers' personal data. READ MORE...

ALSO: The feds want to keep your broadband provider's nose out of your online life
[Is that pop-up ad on your phone for a diaper discount annoying or helpful when you walk into the grocery store? That may be what's at stake as the US government looks to make online privacy its next priority.]


MARCH 10 -FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says a proposal about how broadband providers can track your online activity may be released to the public this month. Marguerite Reardon/CNET
Companies say they're just trying to deliver more relevant ads, but consumer advocates contend we need stricter rules about what Internet providers can see. Is that pop-up ad on your phone for a diaper discount annoying or helpful when you walk into the grocery store? That may be what's at stake as the US government looks to make online privacy its next priority.The Federal Communications Commission is preparing a proposal that lays out new rules governing how broadband providers handle your online activity. The rules would put the FCC in charge of consumer privacy, a duty previously handled by the Federal Trade Commission. The proposal comes amid heightened concern about personal privacy, thanks to the ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over whether the government has the right to compel a company to create a "backdoor" into our devices. It also comes just days after the FCC fined Verizon $1.35 million for using technology that allowed marketers to track its customers' online activity. Internet providers argue they merely want to deliver relevant advertising to consumers, but privacy and consumer advocates worry that the information could be exploited or hacked. The FCC is using Net neutrality rules, which it passed a year ago, as the foundation for the new regulations. The Net neutrality rules have given the FCC new authority by reclassifying broadband as a utility like a telephone network. The agency could begin circulating its proposal this month, according to testimony that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave last week to a Senate subcommittee. READ MORE...

ALSO: The FCC wants to help everyone afford high-speed Internet


MARCH 8The FCC is pushing a plan to subsidize high-speed Internet access for poor families. CNET
The  -
phone subsidy program known as Lifeline to help low-income families pay for broadband Internet service by giving out a $9.25 per month subsidy. The five-member FCC will vote on the plan on March 31, and it's expected to be approved. The Internet has become central to the daily lives of millions of people, for work and for play, but not everyone has access to broadband. More than 95 percent of US households with incomes over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, while just 48 percent of those earning less than $25,000 can afford such service, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said in remarks defending Lifeline. The FCC says affordability is still the largest single barrier to broadband adoption in low-income households, and this reboot is supposed to help alleviate that issue. Created in 1985, Lifeline was initially designed to provide discounts on traditional phone service for qualifying low-income families. It was revised in 2005 to add prepaid wireless mobile plans to the mix. However, Lifeline has proven controversial as fraud and abuse of the program have been rampant throughout the years. To guard against waste in the new broadband subsidy plan, Wheeler promised that third parties instead of the mobile carriers will vet participants using eligibility for other federal programs, such as the federal food stamp program and Medicaid. Families eligible for Lifeline will only be able to get one subsidy, which means they will have to choose between discounts on voice service or broadband. The FCC also will publish data about the program, including subscriber counts. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

How the government plans to protect your privacy from ISPs (FAQ)


The FCC has taken the first step in a long process toward crafting new privacy protections for broadband customers. But what will the new rules mean for you?


by Marguerite Reardon @maggie_reardon

CYBERSPACE, APRIL 11, 2016 (CNET.COM) by Marguerite Reardon @maggie_reardon / April 2, 2016  - Does the idea of your Internet Service Provider tracking your online whereabouts and selling it to the highest bidder give you the heebie-jeebies? The Federal Communications Commission has a fix that might make you feel better.

The FCC is on a path to adopt the strongest privacy regulations to date for Internet service providers.

The agency voted this week on a proposal for rules that will govern how broadband and wireless providers handle your personal online data.

These rules, championed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would also establish the strongest set of privacy regulations ever for Internet service providers. And they'd put the agency in charge of consumer privacy, a duty previously handled by the Federal Trade Commission.

"Every broadband consumer should have the right to choose how their information bits should be used and shared," Wheeler said in an op-ed published on The Huffington Post.

The Internet service providers question the FCC's authority to make these rules and argue that they leave out other Internet players, which follow separate rules.

READ MORE...

Wheeler contends that consumers may have options with search engines or social networks, but often have little choice when it comes to the company providing access to those services.


Internet-security-privacy- CNET.COM

Here's a rundown of what these new rules mean to you.

What will the FCC privacy rules do?

The new rules prohibit broadband providers from sharing your information, such as your name, location or online activity, with third parties without your consent. It's meant to provide the same kind of protection offered to telephone customers.

The rules would also require broadband and wireless providers to disclose in plain language how consumer data is collected, how it's shared with third parties and how it's used by outside firms. The plan also calls for broadband companies to strengthen security practices for customer data.

What does that mean for me?

Your broadband or wireless service provider will have to explicitly ask for your permission before any of your personal data can be shared with an advertiser. But those companies will still be able to use that information to send targeted advertising to you about their own services. If you're a Verizon Fios TV customer, Verizon can still use your data to send you relevant advertisements about its wireless service.

What if I want those relevant ads or a cheaper ad-sponsored service?

Remember that these requirements are about giving consumers a choice. You can opt in to programs that offer that information to third parties. The difference is that the Internet provider can't assume you are OK with this data being shared, and it must give you the option to say no.

For instance, you can pay AT&T $70 a month for an ad-sponsored version of its Gigapower Internet service. For $100, you can remove the ads.

Will I still see creepy ads on Facebook about the shoes I just searched for on Zappos?

Probably. That's what upset a lot of critics. The rules only cover broadband and wireless service providers. But online companies such as Facebook and Google or device makers such as Apple are excluded from the rules. That means these companies are still able to collect data about your location and Internet surfing habits and sell it to advertisers or other third parties.

Why aren't these other companies included in the new rules?

The FCC regulates phone, cable and wireless companies. It doesn't have the legal authority to regulate Internet companies or device makers.

Are they subject to any privacy rules?



The Federal Trade Commission is the primary agency in charge of protecting online consumer privacy. It focuses on potentially unfair and deceptive activities like failing to inform consumers of how their privacy might be affected or changing their terms of service without notice.


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defends Net neutrality at Mobile World Congress 2015.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been pushing for stronger privacy regulations for broadband and wireless service providers. Stephen Shankland/CNET

As with the FCC's plan, the FTC requires companies to be open about what they're doing with your data. But its authority is more reactive than proactive. It steps in after a company has already deceived customers or mishandled customer data, typically issuing a fine for harming customers. The FCC is now outlining a more concrete set of rules.

Why now?

Over a year ago when the FCC passed its Net neutrality rules, it reclassified broadband as a telecom service, which makes it a public utility. The law requires that the FCC regulate privacy concerns rather than the FTC. It had been talking about coming up with privacy rules for a year.

But aren't those Net neutrality rules being challenged in court?

Yes. If the federal appeals court throws out the Net neutrality regulation or even upholds pieces of the rules but questions the FCC's authority to reclassify broadband, then the privacy rules would also be thrown out. At that point, the FCC wouldn't have the authority to apply privacy regulations on network providers like those on phone and cable TV companies.

When will the privacy rules take effect?

The vote on Thursday was just the beginning of the process. The FCC opened up its proposal for public comment. Then there will be another period to comment on the comments. After that, the agency will draft its final rules and vote on them. The whole process could take six months or longer. But keep in mind that this is an election year, and the current FCC chairman will likely leave when a new president takes office in January. So there's an incentive to get the rules voted on before he leaves.


Net neutrality turns 1: Here's everything you need to know (FAQ)February 25, 2016 5:00 AM PST by Marguerite Reardon @maggie_reardon / February 25, 20165:00 AM PST


Emotions have run high over Net neutrality. Here, protesters gathered in California in 2014, near where President Barack Obama was hosting a fundraiser. Steve Rhodes/Demotix/Corbis

The new rules governing an open Internet reach a milestone, but not everyone is celebrating.

The US government's landmark Net neutrality rules are about to mark their one-year anniversary. You'd think proponents of a free and open Internet would mark the occasion with a victory lap.

It's not that simple.

When the Federal Communications Commission put the Internet under stricter regulations last February 26, it wanted to make sure broadband service providers would treat all Web traffic the same. But the situation is far from settled. Broadband providers quickly sued the FCC, and the courts are now reviewing the rules. Those legal decisions will decide how the Internet works.

The future looks different depending on which side you believe. The FCC says its regulations prevent big businesses from shutting out competitors and controlling the content we see on our computers, phones and tablets. The broadband players, including AT&T and Verizon, say the rules don't encourage them to invest in network upgrades, which will limit innovation and drive up prices.

READ MORE...

Net neutrality wasn't something many people cared about before June 2014, when comedian John Oliver compared cable companies to the mafia shaking down regulators to rewrite the rules. Oliver finished his 13-minute rant by calling on his viewers to flood the FCC with comments supporting an open Internet. Four million Americans contacted the agency, crashing its servers.

President Barack Obama joined the debate that November, supporting a plan to reclassify the rules governing broadband. The three Democratic FCC commissioners pushed for the new rules, while the two Republican commissioners opposed them.

You're forgiven for not remembering all the details. It's pretty wonky, after all. To refresh your memory and to mark the one-year anniversary, we offer this FAQ and a reminder that all our stories on Net neutrality, including our exclusive interview with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, can be found here.

What is Net neutrality again?

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. This means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the Internet, can't block or slow down the services or applications you use over the Web. It also means your Internet provider can't create so-called fast lanes that force companies like Netflix to pay an additional fee to speed up delivery of content to you.

Sounds reasonable. Why is this controversial?

Although almost everyone involved agrees with the basic idea of Net neutrality, the FCC's rules have become a lightning rod for controversy. That's because the commission, under Wheeler, has reclassified broadband as a public utility. That change puts broadband providers under some of the same strict regulations that have governed telephone networks for more than 80 years.

Before the ink even dried on the new regulations, telephone companies and cable operators banded together to sue the government, arguing that the FCC doesn't have the authority to make such a drastic change. They say the new classification lets the FCC impose higher rates, which will discourage them from building or upgrading networks. The FCC says it doesn't have any plans to regulate rates or quash innovative business models. Wheeler said the only reason the agency reclassified broadband was to make sure it can fight legal challenges it expects from Internet providers.

Why is this a big deal?

If the US Court of Appeals upholds the FCC's order, broadband providers can't block or slow down your access to the Internet. They also won't be able to create fast lanes, where companies pay for priority access to deliver content and services to your home.

If the FCC loses, the agency could be stripped of its authority and be left unable to determine whether new business practices will harm consumers. One example is zero-rating. That's when broadband providers and wireless companies don't count data usage of specific apps and services against a customer's cap. Net neutrality supporters argue against the practice, saying it turns broadband providers into Internet gatekeepers by encouraging consumers to use certain services instead of others. This, they say, ultimately hurts competition, innovation and consumer choice. The FCC is currently reviewing offers announced by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Where do the rules stand now?

The FCC's rules went into effect in June. The lawsuit was argued in federal court in December, and we're waiting for a decision later this spring. The case will be decided before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, the same court that struck down the FCC's two previous attempts at Net neutrality, with one of the same judges.

Will Congress take action?

Right before the FCC's new regulations passed last year, Republicans led by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) pushed for legislation to derail them, but the effort stalled. House Republicans also attempted to cut off funding needed to implement the rules, but that effort failed too.

Opponents are re-energized, however. Earlier this month, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) introduced a bill called the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, forbidding the FCC from dictating how much companies can charge for broadband Net access.

What are the chances of the bill becoming law?

Net neutrality advocates say we don't need Kinzinger's legislation. The FCC's chairman has testified before Congress that the agency has no plans to regulate rates. He has also noted that the FCC added measures to its regulations that would prevent the commission from dictating rates in the future.

The bill's real aim, Net neutrality advocates say, is to strip the FCC of its ability to regulate any unfair practices on the Internet.

"Under the Kinzinger bill, broadband providers could try to characterize any and every determination the FCC makes as a rate regulation," Matt Wood, policy director of the Free Press Action Fund, a nonprofit devoted to a diversity of voices in media, said in a column published by Bloomberg BNA.

The bill is still in committee and is a long way from becoming law.

So will the courts finally provide some resolution to the Net neutrality debate?

Probably not. Legal experts expect that any decision, regardless of who wins, will be appealed to the Supreme Court. And even if the FCC does ultimately get to enforce the regulations, you can expect more lawsuits attacking how the agency applies them.

That's why no one's breaking into a victory lap just yet.


Verizon racks up $1.35M fine for violating consumer privacy Mobile March 7, 2016 3:09 PM PST 3:09 PM PST Marguerite Reardon mugshot by Marguerite Reardon @maggie_reardon


Verizon will pay a $1.35 million fine for use of permanent cookies that tracked customers' web activity.
Verizon photo.

Federal regulators are getting serious about protecting consumer privacy online and have settled an investigation with Verizon over its use of "supercookies," which track users' online whereabouts.

How much does your privacy cost? A cool $1.35 million, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission said it had reached a deal with Verizon over the company's use of a technology that allowed marketers to track customers' web browsing so they could provide more targeted advertising. The so-called supercookies were hidden bits of code that couldn't be easily erased when consumers cleared their browsing history.

As part of the agreement, Verizon will pay the $1.35 million fine and shift from an opt-out policy to a more explicit opt-in policy for consumers. Now it will only share "supercookie" data with third parties if customers have decided to participate.

The company will still be able to use the "supercookie" tracking information when customers connect to Verizon's corporate services to market its own services to its customers.

The settlement with Verizon comes as the FCC prepares to take a more active role in consumer privacy by making sure broadband and wireless companies safeguard consumers' personal data.

READ MORE...

While the Federal Trade Commission has historically been the primary watchdog for online privacy, the FCC is preparing to take on this role following the passage of Net neutrality regulation a year ago. The agency is in the midst of preparing a proposal that will outline how the privacy regulation will be adapted for the Internet age.

"Consumers care about privacy and should have a say in how their personal information is used, especially when it comes to who knows what they're doing online," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a press release.

The issue of privacy has risen to the forefront thanks to the ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over the government's attempt to compel the company to help break into an iPhone used by one of the terrorists involved with the December San Bernardino, California, shootings.

While the FBI argues it only wants access to one phone, Apple believes this is a broader issue involving the privacy of all mobile devices.

The Verizon fight isn't anywhere near as dramatic.

Browser "cookies" are tiny bits of text stored on your device by your browser. They contain information about the websites you've visited and how long you stayed on those sites, along with other information about your browsing activities.


A super cookie is a type of browser cookie that is designed to be permanently stored on a user's computer. Super cookies are generally more difficult for users to detect and remove from their devices because they cannot be deleted in the same fashion as regular cookies.

"Supercookies" are cookies designed to be permanently stored on devices. They're often more difficult to detect than regular cookies and can't be deleted in the same way regular cookies can.

Privacy advocates have criticized wireless operators for using this technology because of their stubborn and stealthy nature.

Privacy advocates also warn this information could be used by hackers to track users' activities.

Verizon began using the supercookie tracking technology in 2012 to help its advertisers provide more targeted advertising. In late 2014, consumer and privacy advocates began criticizing the practice, which caught the attention of the FCC.

A study in January 2015 showed that this tracking information couldn't be erased and could be accessed by third parties, even if users tried to remove their browsing history from their mobile browsers.

Verizon says it's worked over the past year to make changes to its policy to ensure customers are informed of its policies.

In March, Verizon updated its privacy policy to inform customers about the supercookies and began offering customers the ability to opt out of this tracking.

"Verizon gives customers choices about how we use their data," said Richard Young, a spokesman for Verizon. "We work hard to provide customers with clear, complete information to help them make decisions about our services."


The feds want to keep your broadband provider's nose out of your online life by Marguerite Reardon @maggie_reardon / March 10, 2016 5:00 AM PST


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says a proposal about how broadband providers can track your online activity may be released to the public this month. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Companies say they're just trying to deliver more relevant ads, but consumer advocates contend we need stricter rules about what Internet providers can see.

Is that pop-up ad on your phone for a diaper discount annoying or helpful when you walk into the grocery store? That may be what's at stake as the US government looks to make online privacy its next priority.

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing a proposal that lays out new rules governing how broadband providers handle your online activity. The rules would put the FCC in charge of consumer privacy, a duty previously handled by the Federal Trade Commission.

The proposal comes amid heightened concern about personal privacy, thanks to the ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over whether the government has the right to compel a company to create a "backdoor" into our devices.

It also comes just days after the FCC fined Verizon $1.35 million for using technology that allowed marketers to track its customers' online activity. Internet providers argue they merely want to deliver relevant advertising to consumers, but privacy and consumer advocates worry that the information could be exploited or hacked.

The FCC is using Net neutrality rules, which it passed a year ago, as the foundation for the new regulations. The Net neutrality rules have given the FCC new authority by reclassifying broadband as a utility like a telephone network.

The agency could begin circulating its proposal this month, according to testimony that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave last week to a Senate subcommittee.

READ MORE...

Privacy and consumer advocates are calling on the FCC to create stringent regulations that would limit how broadband providers can track their customers' activities on the Internet. In a letter to the FCC last week, 12 privacy groups called these tracking practices "invasive and ubiquitous."

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, meanwhile, have expressed a desire for looser restrictions that will let them experiment with more-targeted advertising. On March 1, five telecom and cable trade groups, including the CTIA wireless association and the NCTA cable group, sent their own letter to the FCC. Their letter calls for "flexible" rules similar to the FTC's guidelines that look for unfair or deceptive conduct.

"Consumer information should be protected based upon the sensitivity of the information to the consumer and how the information is used -- not the type of business keeping it, how that business obtains it, or what regulatory agency has authority over it," they said in the letter.

The broadband providers are already trying to get the Net neutrality rules thrown out and are awaiting the outcome of a federal lawsuit challenging the agency's authority.

A complex issue

The FCC gave hints of its direction when it settled with Verizon over the use of so-called supercookies, which are bits of code that track activity and can't be easily erased. As part of the settlement, Verizon changed its policy so consumers must actively choose to participate in the program, rather than being automatically enrolled.

The change signals that the FCC is interested in giving consumers more control over their personal data.

Some question whether stricter regulation on Internet service providers is necessary. Peter Swire, a law professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who worked as chief privacy counsel in the Clinton White House, co-authored a report last month that indicates Internet providers have access to less personal information from consumers than previously thought.

Instead, online players such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, along with messaging apps like Snapchat, collect far more data about consumers that is used for advertising. Those online and app companies don't fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC.

The information that broadband providers can get from consumers is minimal, according to the report. A large reason for this is the rise of encryption, which scrambles data so that it can't be read by those lacking the proper credentials. The top 10 websites use encryption by default, so Internet providers aren't able to see what information customers are accessing online.

"The evidence does not support a claim that ISPs have 'comprehensive' knowledge about their subscribers' Internet activity," Swire's report concludes.

Still, privacy advocates say it's important for the FCC to make sure privacy regulations for broadband match those of other networks it oversees. The agency currently regulates privacy for cable TV networks and telephone service, and advocates say it's done a pretty good job.

"I've never heard anyone say, 'Gosh I wish I had less protection than I have on my voice telephone line,'" said Harold Feld, senior vice president at consumer advocacy organization Public Knowledge.


The FCC wants to help everyone afford high-speed Internet by Lance Whitney @lancewhit / Marguerite Reardon @maggie_reardon / March 8, 201611:18 AM PST


The FCC is pushing a plan to subsidize high-speed Internet access for poor families. CNET

The agency aims to subsidize the costs of broadband access so that low-income households pay a minimal monthly cost. Not everyone is in favor of the plan.

Americans who can't afford broadband Internet access may soon get some help from Uncle Sam.

The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday it's expanding the $1.5 billion phone subsidy program known as Lifeline to help low-income families pay for broadband Internet service by giving out a $9.25 per month subsidy. The five-member FCC will vote on the plan on March 31, and it's expected to be approved.

The Internet has become central to the daily lives of millions of people, for work and for play, but not everyone has access to broadband. More than 95 percent of US households with incomes over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, while just 48 percent of those earning less than $25,000 can afford such service, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said in remarks defending Lifeline. The FCC says affordability is still the largest single barrier to broadband adoption in low-income households, and this reboot is supposed to help alleviate that issue.

Created in 1985, Lifeline was initially designed to provide discounts on traditional phone service for qualifying low-income families. It was revised in 2005 to add prepaid wireless mobile plans to the mix. However, Lifeline has proven controversial as fraud and abuse of the program have been rampant throughout the years.

To guard against waste in the new broadband subsidy plan, Wheeler promised that third parties instead of the mobile carriers will vet participants using eligibility for other federal programs, such as the federal food stamp program and Medicaid. Families eligible for Lifeline will only be able to get one subsidy, which means they will have to choose between discounts on voice service or broadband. The FCC also will publish data about the program, including subscriber counts.

READ MORE...

The FCC hopes this expansion will encourage new companies to participate in the Lifeline program, such as large cable operators, which already offer programs to low-income customers. But these new services will have to meet a set of standards set by the agency.

For instance, the FCC will require Lifeline broadband services to offer download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second. This is considerably slower than the speed at which the FCC classifies true broadband speed, which is 25 Mbps. Requiring faster speeds would likely increase the price of service beyond what a low-income family could afford even with a subsidy, said an FCC official, who spoke on background about the proposal.

Consumer advocacy groups applauded the FCC's efforts.

"Thirty years ago, the FCC correctly recognized that basic telephone service was critical for Americans to fully engage in our society and created the low-income telephone Lifeline program," said Phillip Berenbroick, counsel for Government Affairs at Public Knowledge, in a statement. "Today, broadband is the essential communications service, and the Chairman's plan to modernize the Lifeline program reflects that fact."

Not everyone is on board with the new plan.


Commissioner Michael O'Rielly at an FCC

Michael O'Rielly, a Republican commissioner at the FCC, said in blog post on Thursday that the plan will "massively expand" the Lifeline program and increase its price tag without the needed budgetary or financial limits in place.

The FCC said it's setting a budget for the program of $2.25 billion. Current spending on the program is about $1.25 billion.

"Such irresponsible action will balloon a program plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse and result in higher phone bills for every American -- including those already struggling in the current economy," O'Rielly said. "In sum, it's a recipe for disaster, and I can't and won't be part of it."


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