In a Monday speech, Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a draft proposal that would expand a program that provides affordable telephone service for low-income Americans to include broadband Internet service.

“The program is outdated, focused on phone service when high-speed Internet has become our vital communications platform,” he said.

In his remarks, Genachowski said the program, known as Lifeline and which provides discounts on monthly telephone bills, has been successful, but has also been plagued by problems of accountability and efficiency.

Multiple service providers often claim Lifeline subsidies for the same households, he said, because there is no centralized system. To address the issue, Genachowski proposed creating a national database of Lifeline users to prevent duplicative billing.

“The order would make Lifeline reimbursement more transparent and streamlined,” Genachowski said, calling the measure common sense. He said that FCC staff estimate the reforms will save the fund $2 billion over the next two years.

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