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FCC to Poor People: No More Cheap Internet for You

It's hard to apply for work these days without access to a reliable broadband connection. Now the FCC wants to take low-income Americans offline.

Apparently, poor Americans do not have internet search histories that are worth selling? Here's the situation, courtesy of an excellent article in ARS Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission is dropping its legal defense of a new system for expanding broadband subsidies for poor people, and it will not approve applications from companies that want to offer the low-income broadband service.

The decision announced today by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai would halt implementation of last year's expansion of the Lifeline program. This 32-year-old program gives poor people $9.25 a month toward communications services, and it was changed last year to support broadband in addition to phone service.

The number of Americans applying for jobs over the internet has doubled since 2005. A recent Pew Research Center report found more than half (54%) of Americans were using the internet to research job openings last year, and 45% of Americans applied for a job online.

Even restaurants are having applicants apply over their websites. In 2017, we need access to a server to become a server!

To be clear, this change won't stop Lifeline broadband subsidies, but it will raise the barriers to entry on ISPs applying to sell broadband plans at a subsidized rate to lower-income citizens. The process is simply becoming meaner and leaner. I think we all need a broadband-provided '90s song break right about now. Pfft.

So what does this mean for the low-income job seeker?

The long-term unemployed who have depended on a subsidized, low-cost internet connection to apply for jobs might find themselves spending more time using the computer at their local library or local jobs center if they can no longer afford a broadband bill. The library and jobs center are only a short, 60-minute bus ride away now that they've moved to the other side of town. These are very real, every-day obstacles when you're a low-income individual.

The job market has certainly improved, but we still have work to do in getting the long-term unemployed back to work.

What was that talk about how our "forgotten" citizens will be forgotten no more? If we're serious about putting everyone back to work who wants a job, then we will need to recognize the very real challenges facing low-income (or no-income) job seekers. Expecting low-income job seekers to apply for jobs when they no longer have access to the very thing they need to apply for today's jobs -- an internet connection -- creates an additional barrier to entry in the job market.

They say a rising tide lifts all boats. Today, a reliable broadband connection lifts us out of unemployment.


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