Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif) today introduced the the Broadband Affordability Act of 2011, which is designed to help bridge the digital divide by making in-home broadband services more affordable for lower-income American families.
Matsui says the cost of broadband services is one of the main barriers for millions of U.S. households, limiting their ability to connect to Internet services. The FCC estimated in 2010 that 28 million Americans do not subscribe to broadband services because of affordability barriers.
“Income should not hinder the ability of hard-working American families to attain broadband services that have become a necessity, not a luxury in our technologically-driven economy. If you don’t have it, you are simply at a competitive disadvantage," Matsui said. “To close the digital divide, we must address the affordability of broadband services for lower-income households. Although these households may have some options for broadband access, they are underserved if these options are not affordable. This legislation will ensure all Americans have equal access to affordable broadband services."
The Matsui legislation directs the FCC to create a Broadband Lifeline Assistance Program in order to help make in-home Internet service more affordable. The proposal is similar to the assistance provided for basic telephone service under the existing Commission’s Lifeline Assistance Program, and like the current Lifeline model, revenue for the Broadband Lifeline Assistance Program would be generated by the providers and not by taxpayers. Upon enactment, Lifeline customers would simply receive a discount on their monthly Internet bill.
“As the FCC moves forward to transition the USF program to broadband, a Lifeline program is a natural fit to further our goal of increased adoption rates across this country," said Matsui. “My legislation will help bridge the digital divide by making in-home broadband services a reality for American families in both urban and rural communities."
Matsui introduced similar legislation in the 111th Congress, and the proposal was later included in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.
Matsui is amember of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.