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Obama Seeks Broadband for 20 Million More Low-Income Subscribers

WASHINGTON — President Obama, backing a plan to connect low-income families to more affordable broadband services, on Wednesday set a goal to get 20 million people subscribed to high-speed Internet by 2020.

In a Facebook post, Mr. Obama said a lack of broadband at home took a particularly harsh toll on students caught in a “homework gap,” unable to complete school assignments because the work requires access to the web.

“All of America’s students should be able to get online, no matter where they live or how much their parents make,” Mr. Obama wrote. “We’re calling this effort ConnectAll — and it’s not just good for students, it’s good for folks looking for jobs or workers hoping to learn new skills.”

The White House also released a report outlining the economic effects of broadband adoption, focused on how families without broadband at home are at a disadvantage in finding jobs. Job seekers who search online find employment 25 percent faster than those who use traditional methods like newspaper classifieds, according to a report released by the Council of Economic Advisers.

The announcement underscores the government’s view of high-speed Internet as a utility that should be regulated like water and power and should be extended to all residents. The White House has pushed for more affordable broadband with its ConnectHome initiative, announced last July, to put affordable broadband services in public housing. Mr. Obama in late 2014 urged the Federal Communications Commission to classify broadband services as utilities, a view fiercely opposed by telecom service providers.

The White House on Wednesday also said it would support the F.C.C.’s proposal to reform its Lifeline phone program. That effort, announced earlier this week, will give low-income homes a $ 9.25 monthly subsidy for wireless and fixed broadband services. The broadband subsidy will be part of a revamp of a three-decades-old phone program for low-income homes. The fund comes from line-item charges to every wireless phone bill and the proposal will go to a vote on March 31.

Connecting 20 million more people to broadband would push adoption rates to about 82 percent, up from 76 percent at the end of 2014, according to the White House.

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