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FCC Chairman Pushes For Broadband Lifeline Expansion

Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier via Flickr CC
Inside a broadband router

Among Americans who make less than $30,000 a year, about half of them have high-speed Internet at home, but a program might help narrow the digital divide.

The program is called Lifeline, and right now it allows people with lower incomes to have cheap—or sometimes free—phone service.

Emmanuelle Leal, an organizer with the Media Literacy Project, said expanding Lifeline to cover broadband will make a big difference for a lot of families in the state—and half of them already make use of the discount.

"They’re going to be able to apply for jobs," he said. "They’re going to be able to find health or medical information online. This is all about access."

Now, Internet infrastructure doesn’t exist in many rural parts of the state. Leal said if more rural families are eligible for service that will spur local government to attract Internet providers to their towns.

"Most folks don’t know that New Mexico is one of the pilot programs where the FCC has been testing out this possibility," he said. 

Republicans in Congress have criticized FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Lifeline expansion proposal, saying the program is already too costly at $1.7 billion dollars and rife with fraud. Still, bills to expand the program have been introduced in the House and Senate.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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