A $9.25 broadband subsidy could help with issues related to digital inequality. 
A $9.25 broadband subsidy could help with issues related to digital inequality.  - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

Nine dollars, 25 cents. Doesn't sound like a lot. But the Federal Communications Commission is banking on that small subsidy being enough to get a lot more people online.

The FCC approved plans last week to extend its Lifeline subsidy for low-income households from just phone lines to cellular data and broadband plans. 

"Saving $10 goes along way in communities like Red Hook," said Tony Schloss, who works with a nonprofit that provides Wi-Fi in the Brooklyn community, much of which is low-income housing projects.

Schloss said there are a lot of young people in Red Hook who struggle to find publicly available broadband — on Wi-Fi or at community centers — where they can do their homework.

"The homework ... most times it's online. Sometimes it needs to be turned in online. Other times, the research occurs online," Schloss said.

The FCC points to a digital divide, where a large proportion of low-income households do not have access to high-speed internet.

The changes to the Lifeline program could create more competition, as telecom companies that had not participated in the past now find their services eligible.

"The big addition that the FCC is hoping to bring in are a lot of the cable providers. That will obviously bring additional competition and choice for qualifying participants," said Doug Brake of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

The FCC wants to make it easier for companies to participate by lightening their administrative burden through reduction in red tape, and a national clearinghouse to determine program eligibility.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.