A coalition of internet service providers including AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon asked Congress and the White House Tuesday to make the new Emergency Broadband Benefit permanent in some form after the COVID crisis is over. The $3.2 billion program is meant to help low-income households pay for broadband during the pandemic.
The ISPs asked for “a long-term federally-funded broadband benefit program that the FCC would manage and administer to provide low-income individuals with enhanced financial support for broadband long after the pandemic ends.” That’s in line with AT&T’s lobbying objectives, reports Politico. The telecom raised concerns about how the FCC funds its existing subsidies via fees that tap traditional phone companies.
However, the $200 billion portion of President Joe Biden’s $3 trillion infrastructure plan notes that individual subsidies may make sense initially, but Biden “believes continually providing subsidies to cover the cost of overpriced internet service is not the right long-term solution for consumers or taxpayers.”
Some Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill to add $6 billion to the EBB, Inside Towers reported. They will likely want to maintain a robust subsidy program at the Commission to help low-income households. Lawmakers of both parties agree the agency subsidy model needs an update, which could fuel efforts for an overhaul, according to the account.