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Obama recommends extending phone subsidy to broadband Internet

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration says a discount designed to help low-income Americans purchase telephone service should be extended to cover the Internet.

The discount, currently at $9.25 a month, has been around since 1985 and was expanded under President George W. Bush to include mobile phones.

The idea behind the subsidy is to help more people access telephone service so that they can land a job or get help in an emergency.

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Now, with more people using the Internet to communicate, the Obama administration says it's supporting a Federal Communications Commission effort to extend the subsidy to broadband.

Jeffrey Zients, a top White House economic adviser, says the Internet "isn't nice to have. It's need to have" for students trying to keep up in class and for adults looking for work.

This isn't the first time the administration has pushed for better broadband access. In January 2015, the Obama administration said it would look for ways to increase Americans' access to faster, cheaper broadband internet.

"The high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it's a necessity," the president had said. "This isn't just about making it easier to stream Netflix or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed --although that's fun, and it is frustrating if you're waiting for a long time before the thing finally comes up. This is about helping local businesses grow and prosper and compete in a global economy."