Using $25 million in savings tied to the Universal Service Fund, the Federal Communication Commission is launching a competition to identify pilot programs that can increase high-speed Internet adoption in households earning less than $25,000 per year.
The new initiative will build on Comcast's Internet Essentials program, a low-cost high-speed data service that the cable operator launched last year as part of the agreement it struck to win federal approval for its acquisition of NBCUniversal.
The money will be distributed to telecom carriers eligible for subsidies under the federal Lifeline program for low-income broadband access, and will be spread around various areas of the country. Both fixed and mobile technologies will be eligible for the competition. Winners will be announced in the fall.
“Low-income Americans are disproportionately excluded from the $8 trillion dollar global Internet economy, and all of its benefits,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. “By reforming the Lifeline program earlier this year to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, we were able to save tens of millions of dollars to support this competition. The data we collect will help identify the best ways to close the broadband adoption gap and unleash the benefits of high-speed Internet for every American.”