FCC Reaches Out to Expand Internet Access

The FCC is to announce commitments to supply access for $9.99 a month to a subset of low-income American households. This low price is meant to appeal to new customers who have not had broadband in the past, writes Brian Stelter at the New York Times.

The Federal Communications Commission targets this initiative to be the big drive to help close the digital divide. Because no federal funds are being invested, the initiative relies on the cooperation of private companies.

The government estimates that about one-third (100 million people) of American households do not have high-speed Internet access at home. Mr. Genachowski, the FCC chairman, has made broadband deployment and adoption the top priority of his tenure at the FC.

Along with the low monthly price, a technology company will supply refurbished computers for low-income households for $150; Microsoft will provide software; and Morgan Stanley will help develop a microcredit program so that families can pay for those computers.

Job web sites and education companies will also offer content that will make online access more valuable to many.

Households that have a child enrolled in the national school lunch program will be automatically eligible. This number is thought to encompass about 17.5 million children. That limitation is likely to disappoint advocates who would like more affordable access extended to all households.

For those households, the $9.99 monthly price will apply only for a two-year period. The price has been compared to a typical on-ramp for new customers, with the hope being that they will decide to pay more for access once they have had it for a while.