Today, the Federal Communications Commission approved a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to extend the Lifeline program to broadband Internet. This would allow qualified individuals to receive a discount for broadband services. Public Knowledge applauds the FCC for choosing to support low-income Americans who need assistance obtaining vital broadband service. Public Knowledge also commends Chairman Wheeler for his leadership on this issue, Commissioner Clyburn for launching and promoting the idea, and Commissioner Rosenworcel for identifying the important educational benefits of expanding the program.
Lifeline was originally designed during the Reagan administration when telephone was the essential communications service that connected people to each other and to critical services. In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress tasked the FCC with the mission to ensure that all Americans have access to advanced telecommunications services, including evolving technologies. In 2005, the FCC expanded the Lifeline program to include wireless telephone service. Today, that essential connection has evolved to include broadband.
The following can be attributed to Edyael Casaperalta, Internet Rights fellow at Public Knowledge:
“Public Knowledge commends the FCC for taking a historic step to bring the low-income Lifeline program in line with the way people communicate today by approving a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to extend the program to broadband. The Notice acknowledges the critical role the Internet plays in the daily lives of all Americans, including low-income communities, by providing access to employers, schools, health care providers, family members and other services.
“Broadband is today’s essential communications service, but millions of Americans cannot afford it. Schools distribute homework assignments and proctor standardized tests online, employers require electronic resumes, social security checks are solely disbursed electronically, and doctors use video calls to check up on home-bound patients. Improving the Lifeline program to fit the 21st century brings the benefits of advanced communications to all Americans, regardless of how much they can afford.
“The FCC has already taken action to fix the systemic flaws that existed prior to 2012 that allowed some dishonest contractors to overcharge the government. According to a GAO report, the FCC has adopted 7 out of 12 recommendations to address flaws in the Lifeline program. The FCC has also recovered millions of dollars by prosecuting dishonest contractors. Public Knowledge is pleased to see positive action by the FCC in addressing fraud and abuse, and moving us towards a stable and effective Lifeline program that enhances competition, provides consumer choice, and allows the most vulnerable Americans to be full participants of our society.”
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