FCC to address access to internet for low-income families

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The FCC and several internet service providers are looking to provide low-income families internet access.

A blue graphic with the letters http://www signifying the internet

Internet Access

According to an E-Commerce Times article by Erika Morphy, the plan would allow families to pay only $10 a month for internet service and would also provide them with vouchers in the amount of $150 for refurbished computers.  The initiative is primarily focused on children, especially those who are enrolled in the National School Lunch Program.  The FCC highlights that about a third of Americans, or 100 million people, do not have internet in their home.

However, this new initiative will also most likely help address a number of people with disabilities who live below the poverty line.  The National Council on Disability has released a progress report to “assess the current state of people with disabilities in America and how emerging trends and government policies are impacting the quality of lives” and “offers a broad range of recommendations for reforms designed to enhance the independence and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities”.

The progress report highlights that the income gap between an average household and one with a work limitation has increased over the years.  In 1980 this difference was $19,000 and by 2008 it rose to $28,000.  This could be due to the struggling job market and the experience of students with disabilities.  Students with disabilities often leave public education lacking the necessary skills to maintain a job including digital literacy.

The National Council on Disability also makes a case for the accessibility of technology.  According to a Harris Poll survey there is a large gap between people with or without disabilities when accessing the internet.  Not only does this occur in one age group, but people with disabilities are less likely to use the internet in all age groups.  “Eighty-five percent of adults without disabilities report using a computer or other electronic device to access the Internet from home, work, or another location, compared with 54 percent of adults with disabilities-a gap of 31 percent.”  Technology is not cheap and is a last resort for those living below the poverty line and it is clear that people with disabilities are being left behind without access to the internet.

Though there are still many more problems to face with technology such as making websites accessible for people with disabilities, the FCC is taking a step in the right direction by addressing problems with access to the internet.