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FCC announces $4 billlion to bring Internet to low-income families

Ramferi Velasquez updates an entry on the VozMob (Mobile Voices) website at the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA) in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 23, 2011.

Steve Chiotakis: Today, the Federal Communications Commission is announcing a $4 billion partnership. It's going to bring cable providers and computer companies together to help low-income families afford high-speed Internet access and computer hardware.

From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: This program is for families of kids who get discounts on school lunch through the government. They'll pay less for broadband Internet and get a deal on computers.

Blair Levin is a fellow at The Aspen Institute. He says it's hard to be a productive member of society if you're not online.

Blair Levin: Think about how do you look for a job? How do you train for a job? How do you do your homework? How do you find out healthcare information?

Levin oversaw the FCC plan that paved the way for today's announcement.

Levin: It wasn't simply about getting networks everywhere, although that was an important part, it's about getting everyone on and using the networks more effectively.

The government has to convince families high-speed Internet is a good investment. Elisabeth Stock runs a non-profit called Computers for Youth.

Elisabeth Stock: When you have low-cost computers, you have discounted broadband, and you have good content, you still need an entity that's working on the ground, directly with families, that brings it all together for them.

Stock hopes the FCC will come up with another plan to educate families on how to use high-speed internet effectively.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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Whenever politicians—or anyone, these days—start talking about the serving the universal good, I get universally suspicious. Democrat or Republican administration: Are we really talking about expanding broadband to serve low income households, or are we talking about allowing cable companies to expand their markets and control and consolidate their financial interests? This isn’t the era of the Tennessee Valley Authority under FDR. Fannie and Freddie, after all, were only expanding home ownership to low income households (while simultaneously serving the interests of Wall Street, which extracted wealth with a will). It didn’t work out so well, did it?

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