FCC reverses decision on Internet access

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has signaled the commission will be looking carefully at applicants for broadband subsidies.

Net Neutrality holds that internet service providers may not favor one type of content over another.

Revamping the FCC's Lifeline program to provide broadband services to lower-income families has been embroiled in controversy.

The other companies are Spot On, Boomerang Wireless, KonaTel, STST Media's FreedomPop, Applied Research Designs, Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, Northland Cable Television and Wabash Independent Networks. "Rather than working to close the digital divide, this action widens the gap".

Pai gave little explanation for the move, saying only - without any kind of documentation - that the plans "have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace".

The Federal Communications Commission removed nine recently added companies from a federally subsidized program called Lifeline, established to provide Internet service to the poor. These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of Commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward.

In a statement issued Friday, Free Press, a consumer advocacy group that pushed for the zero-rating inquiry, decried Pai's dismissal of the matter among other actions. Despite his pledges to increase regulatory transparency and bridge the "digital divide"-the term commonly used to describe the economic and cultural division between people who can afford high-speed internet access and those who cannot-the first Indian-American FCC chairman's recent decisions have raised concerns about where his loyalties actually lie". According to Ars Technica, the federal agency has just blocked nine companies from entering the program, despite the fact that they were all admitted just one month ago.

The new Republican-led FCC's rollback of an affordable broadband program is giving many Democrats cause to worry about the agency's future direction. After all companies with total regional monopolies always provide what their customers want and never think of profits first. "But, clearly the goal was to include this in the 'Friday News Dump, ' as my request was flatly denied".

Established in 1985, the Lifeline program provides poor communities with discounted phone and internet service to access resources for jobs and education.

Daniel Neal, the founder of Kajeet, told The Washington Post that he was concerned about the impact the rollback will have on education and schools.

Revoking the nine approvals "would promote program integrity by providing the [FCC] with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program", the decision said.

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