WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. communications regulator wants to expand a government phone subsidy program to include helping low-income Americans pay for Internet access, according to a proposal disclosed on Thursday.
The Federal Communications Commission will vote on June 18 on proposed changes to the $1.7 billion program, called Lifeline, which is funded through fees paid by landline and cellphone users.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday circulated to the rest of the commission a list of changes to the program, seeking to increase the minimum standards for phone and Internet service that low-income users receive through the plan, and seeks recommendations for how to encourage more providers to participate.
The FCC's Democratic majority is expected to support the chairman's plan, which could spark a new round of political battles over the program because of its history of fraud and abuse.
The proposal would also seek comments on how the FCC can make sure that those receiving subsidies are the ones who need the support the most.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Alan Crosby)