Fight the Digital Divide by Helping Low-Income People Get Online

The chart shows actual distribution of wealth in the U.S. with the vast majority of wealth clearly concentrated at the very top.

Target: Federal Communications Commissions Chair Tom Wheeler

Goal: Subsidize Internet access for low-income people.

A small Lifeline subsidy for Internet connections has been proposed by the FCC in the hope it might encourage providers to offer qualified low-income homes a rate they can reach. Some providers are already doing this. Comcast offers a $10 per month plan for qualified low income families that has enabled almost half a million families to get online since it was first offered in 2011.

Half of all adults making less than $30,000 per year don’t have Internet access in their homes and 15 percent of Americans have no Internet access at all. For these people, lack of Internet can mean lack of access to educational activities, job opportunities, social programs and who knows what else. Low-income people trying to stretch limited funds often don’t have enough money for an Internet connection that could be extremely valuable to them in endless ways, and that isn’t right.

The Lifeline program was started 30 years ago in order to provide a subsidy that helped low-income homes keep their phone service. Lifeline acknowledged how critical it was for all households to have a phone in order to participate in a society and an economy that required a “rapid exchange of information.” Now, federal regulators are starting to recognize the same truth about access to the Internet.

The reality of today’s wired world is that being without Internet access can be extremely isolating and an enormously unfair disadvantage for low-income people. Today, having access to the Internet is just as important as having a phone was 30 years ago because you’re crippled without it. Many low income people want this access, but have no way to get it. That has to change. Tell the FCC that qualified low-income households should have access to the Internet.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear FCC Chair Tom Wheeler,

Being without an Internet connection today is an enormously unfair disadvantage for low income people. A lot of information is regularly placed on the Internet that is not available in other formats and that makes it extremely isolating for any age group to be without a connection. It’s every bit as important as having a phone was 30 years ago when the Lifeline program was started because people are really hindered without Internet access.

The Internet is a lot more than advertising and gaming. There are educational and job opportunities not available to people who are not connected. There are social programs and endless types of informational sources. There are free communication tools like Skype. The poor must not be closed out from the most powerful communication tool available. There needs to be a Lifeline subsidy for existing connections as well as low cost connections offered by providers for qualified, low income households.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Peter Stevens

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