The Washington Post has a story penned by reporter Tony Romm that says a U.S. aid program to keep people online was riddled with deception and fraud.
The story focuses on a pandemic-era initiative that has helped millions of low-income families stay connected. But, a WAPO investigation found, the initiative “suffered persistent abuses” because telecom giants introduced price hikes and speed costs.
“In creating the federal broadband benefits, Congress faced an urgent task. Roughly one-quarter of Americans do not subscribe to high-speed home internet, according to the Pew Research Center, a digital divide made worse by a pandemic that forced people to work, learn and communicate online. Lawmakers could have put in place tough, strict rules, requiring telecom providers to maintain a minimum level of service in exchange for federal payments. But Democrats and Republicans faced an onslaught of industry lobbying, so they instead chose to apply a light touch in the waning days of the Trump administration — and made companies’ participation in the program voluntary,” the story states.
“Telecom giants soon subjected their customers to a patchwork of inconsistent speeds and price points. AT&T, for example, told some subscribers with premium service — ultrafast fiber connections with download speeds up to one gigabit per second — that they could receive the subsidy only if they changed to service that was one-third as fast with possible monthly data caps, according to complaints filed with the FCC.
“Internet service providers should not be allowed to ruin this program,” a frustrated AT&T subscriber from Orange, Calif., told the agency in June 2021. The comment, one of thousands obtained from the FCC under the Freedom of Information Act, redacted filers’ names and other details.”
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