Internet Service Providers Forcing Low-Income Subsidy Applicants to Switch to Costlier Plans; Is Yours One of Them?

By B.N. Frank

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been given $3.2 billion to distribute among low-income Americans for broadband assistance.

Now it appears that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are making it tougher for qualified applicants to actually save money. From Ars Technica:

Verizon forces users onto pricier plans to get $50-per-month gov’t subsidy

You might have to change Internet plans to get the FCC’s $50 low-income subsidy.

Verizon and other Internet service providers are preventing some low-income customers from getting new $50-per-month government subsidies unless they switch to different plans that are sometimes more expensive.

Over 825 ISPs nationwide are selling plans eligible for the new subsidies that the US government made available to people who have low incomes or who lost income during the pandemic. Verizon stands out among big ISPs in its use of the subsidy to “upsell” customers to pricier plans, according to a story yesterday by Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler.

“Soon after the EBB [Emergency broadband Benefit program] launched, I started hearing from Washington Post readers about their frustrations signing up with certain ISPs,” he wrote. “Verizon elicited the most ire from readers.”

Instead of letting people enroll online, Verizon requires them to call a phone number to sign up and then “tells some customers the EBB can’t be used on ‘old’ data plans, so they’ll have to switch,” the Post article said. Verizon is limiting the plans available on both mobile and home Internet service.

The EBB is temporary, lasting until the $3.2 billion in program funding runs out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic. Verizon customers who have to switch to a more expensive plan in order to get the $50 monthly discount would have to pay the higher rate after the subsidy expires.

“At the end of the program, you will either continue on your plan at the price without the EBB discount or you will end your Internet-related services with Verizon,” a company FAQ says. “We will give you an opportunity to decide this at the beginning of your enrollment into the EBB program and again before the end of the program. If you do not affirmatively choose to keep your Internet-related services, the FCC requires that we disconnect those services at the end of the EBB program.”

“It seems like EBB only benefits Verizon”

A few Verizon customers who contacted Fowler said that if they switched to a subsidy-eligible plan, they would end up paying more than they do now once the EBB expires. A man named Eric from Hopedale, Massachusetts, was told by Verizon he’d have to switch from a $62 home-Internet plan to a $79 plan, Fowler wrote.

Read full article

The FCC has been identified as a corrupt and “captured” agency that has catered to the telecom and cable industries for decades (see 1, 2).  A group of telecom experts that refer to themselves as The Irregulators’ sued the FCC.  The lawsuit exposed that Americans have already paid to have access to reasonably-priced high-speed internet via fiber optics.  Irregulator, Bruce Kushnick, writes and publishes articles regularly about how Americans continue to be overcharged anyway (see also 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Activist Post reports regularly about the FCC and unsafe technology.  For more information visit our archives.

Image: Pixabay

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