The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted along party lines to approve a proposal to explore subsidizing broadband Internet for poor Americans. The plan, introduced last month by the agency’s Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, helps pave the way for sweeping changes to a $1.7 billion phone subsidy program.
Republicans have opposed extending the phone subsidy — known as Lifeline and initiated in 1985 under President Reagan — pointing to past instances of fraud in the program and suggesting that any expansion would generate more fraud. On Thursday, the two Republican commissioners delivered strongly-worded dissents.
“Adequate controls and deterrents against waste, fraud and abuse should be in place before considering expanding the program to broadband,” said Michael O’Rielly, a Republican commissioner.