Internet subsidies for low-income families could decrease

Internet subsidies for low-income families could decrease

In July 2021, Governor. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a $6 billion statewide plan to expand high-speed internet infrastructure in rural and other disadvantaged areas.

And from May 2021 through March of this year, the state allowed low-income families to take advantage of up to $75 a month in rebates from state and federal subsidy programs, to purchase internet and cell phone service. Eligible households could “stack” grants from three programs, two federal and one state, to reap those savings.

CalMatters Reports this month, state regulators are considering cutting some of their savings.

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on a new rule that would limit how much communications companies can get from the state’s Lifeline program, which offers discounts to low-income households for home and cell phone service.

Under the new rule, low-income California households who are eligible for federal assistance to pay for phone service and Internet access would lose some or all of their monthly California Lifeline rebates. The result: Instead of being able to stack three rebates, most California Lifeline users would be limited to two, for a total of up to $39.25 in rebates per month.

Companies that serve Lifeline customers, and some of their customers, are contesting the change, saying it would cost low-income consumers money and limit the cellular and internet services they can buy.

Some 1.7 million California residents are enrolled in the state Lifeline program, which is an offshoot of the federal Lifeline program. Board staff predicted the proposed change could result in more money being made available to expand services to more low-income residents.


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