Originally published: May 17, 2012
Last updated: May 5, 2013 - 9:43pm
In moving broadband way up on the list of life’s essentials, the Federal Communications Commission may be getting ahead of many consumers. Affordability is undoubtedly one factor in broadband adoption, but there may also be a number of people who just don’t think it’s that important, or not worth the hassle, or too much of a privacy risk, or any number of other concerns. To change their minds, the FCC has decided to use a ploy familiar to the criminal element: it’s going to test how much free or discounted Internet Joe Consumer needs to get hooked on broadband.
As with any pusher, the FCC’s apparent hope is that eventually the consumer will become addicted and willing to cough up the full price. Accordingly, in February, the Commission announced (in its overhaul of the USF Lifeline program) that it would be setting up a Pilot Program “to test how the Lifeline program could be structured to promote the adoption and retention of broadband services by low-income households”. And now, with a public notice released April 30, 2012, the Wireline Competition Bureau has followed up on that plan. The Bureau is making $25 million available to eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) to carry out “field experiments” on customers. The experiments will test various factors in encouraging broadband adoption: primarily what discount dollar amount would be most effective, whether it should be a single discount or monthly (and if monthly, how long it should last), and how speed, usage limits, and consumer outreach might affect adoption. Applications to participate in the Pilot Program are due on or before July 2, 2012.
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