Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Under the new Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the commission told the handful of broadband companies that they could not take part in the Lifeline broadband program just weeks after the companies were approved. (Photo: Reuters)

Trump's FCC Blocks ISPs from Giving Low-Income Families Web Access

New Republican chairman Ajit Pai's orders "rob millions of the neediest families of the help they need to bridge the digital divide," says Free Press

Nadia Prupis

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), newly under Republican control, on Friday blocked nine internet companies from providing service to low-income users, curtailing a groundbreaking program green-lit during the previous administration.

Under the new Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Donald Trump, the commission told the handful of internet service providers (ISPs) that they could not take part in the Lifeline broadband program just weeks after the companies were qualified. Lifeline, approved in 2015, subsidizes internet access for low-income consumers as part of the FCC's efforts to recognize broadband services as an essential public utility.

The nine ISPs' status are now considered "pending." Their bids will be reconsidered after "additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program," the FCC wrote in its statement, echoing terminology often invoked by Republicans, including Trump, as an excuse to cut safety net programs.

CNN reports on one of those ISPs:

Mobile broadband company Kajeet works with over 300 school districts in 41 states and Washington D.C. to provide students with internet if they don't have it at home. Kajeet is a solution for the digital divide—its take-home hotspots filter out things like Facebook and Netflix, and let kids connect to resources for homework.

Regulators approved Kajeet's participation in Lifeline in January.

Friday's decision came amid a series of other items that stymied the FCC's progress under former chairman Tom Wheeler, who stepped down at the end of former President Barack Obama's term—leaving behind a legacy of digital rights victories and paving the way for a Republican attack on internet equality. In addition to the Lifeline order, Pai also slashed an agency guideline to prevent media consolidation and rules on transparency in political advertising online.

Matt Wood, policy director at the advocacy group Free Press, slammed the commission's decision, stating Friday, "With today's action, chairman Pai is undoing important work that promised to bring the benefits of broadband to low-income families, to put vertically integrated ISPs on notice against prioritizing their own content, and to send a message to broadcasters that covert consolidation won't be tolerated."

"With these strong-arm tactics, chairman Pai is showing his true stripes. The public wants an FCC that helps people. Instead, it got one that does favors for the powerful corporations its chairman used to work for," Wood said. "Today, Pai followed President Trump's lead by issuing his own types of executive orders, which undermine the democratic process, strip consumers of safeguards, and rob millions of the neediest families of the help they need to bridge the digital divide."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Citing Need for 'New, Inclusive Leadership,' Chuy García Files for Chicago Mayoral Race

"We have an opportunity to elect a trusted and experienced leader with a history of building coalitions and a vision for a brighter future for all Chicagoans," said the Democratic congressman.

Jessica Corbett ·


On Cyber Monday, Climate Activists Take Aim at Fashion Industry

"The fashion industry is one of the largest polluting industries globally. We can all do better, but it's on companies to make this industry better for workers, the planet, and consumers alike."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden Accused of Selling Out Rail Workers by Urging Congress to Prevent Strike

"Biden is siding with corporate rail bosses over the rank-and-file workers who voted against this agreement," said one progressive commentator after the president urged lawmakers to take action to force through a deal without paid sick leave.

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis Finds State Legislators Proposed 306 Bills Targeting Trans People in Past 2 Years

"Right-wing state lawmakers are obsessed with taking away the rights of trans people and we're obsessed with knocking them out of public office," said one rights group.

Julia Conley ·


Biden Mulls Sending Long-Range Missiles to Ukraine

While Ukrainians and supporters welcomed Boeing's proposal to arm Ukrainian forces with long-range precision-guided bombs, one anti-war voice accused the American military-industrial complex of "dictating the U.S. foreign policy and profiteering from wars."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo