New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday told nine companies that they can no longer offer broadband internet access subsidies for the poor, Fortune reports. The program, known as Lifeline, offered low-income Americans a $9.25 credit for Internet or mobile broadband service.
Pai, a Trump appointee, called the decision a form of "midnight regulation" and said it was done to "promote program integrity."
"These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward," he said in a statement.
The companies are Spot On, Boomerang Wireless, KonaTel, FreedomPop, AR Designs, Kajeet, Liberty, Northland Cabl, and Wabash Independent Networks.
The move makes it more difficult for low-income Americans to access the Web, say critics.
"I'm most concerned about the children we serve," Kajeet founder Daniel Neal told the Washington Post. "We partner with school districts — 41 states and the District of Columbia — to provide educational broadband so that poor kids can do their homework."
"The most obvious fact in our society is that high-speed internet is astronomically expensive for the middle-class and down," Gene Kimmelman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, told the Post. "So in any way limiting the Lifeline program, at this moment in time, exacerbates the digital divide. It doesn't address it in any positive way."
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