The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Lifeline Reply Comments

Advocacy Letter - 09/30/15

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: Chairman Wheeler

View the PDF of these comments here.

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We are writing on behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the undersigned organizations and companies that work directly with and advocate for low-income people, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, educators, and historically disenfranchised people. While our work in these diverse communities varies, each of our organizations can point to the importance of broadband Internet access as a vital tool for our constituents. Yet the digital divide between those who have a broadband Internet connection and those who do not continues to persist. Cost remains a critical barrier. For this reason, we write to support the Federal Communications Commission's proposal to modernize the Lifeline program this year by including in it, for the first time, a subsidy to defray the cost of broadband access for low-income households.

Access to broadband enables access to education and job opportunities, invaluable health information, and social services. Broadband is essential for anyone who goes to school or seeks to further enhance their skills. Seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires the Internet and yet 5 million households with children don’t have home access, leading to a “homework gap.”[1] Obtaining a job without access to the kinds of training programs or education available online that can help jobseekers upgrade skills in the modern economy is a daunting proposition. And more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including companies like Wal-Mart and Target, only accept job applications online.[2] The effectiveness of federal and state programs and health care providers to assist seniors, veterans and people with disabilities would improve dramatically if all those populations could communicate via broadband. And despite libraries’ Herculean efforts to serve the unserved, nearly seven out of 10 public libraries report they do not have enough computers to meet demand all or some part of the day.[3]

Though Internet access is a tool that has revolutionized almost every sector and every part of our personal lives, substantial numbers of people still do not have access. While 92 percent of households with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 have broadband service, the adoption rate is only:

  • 47 percent for households with income below $25,000;[4]
  • 64 percent for African Americans and 53 percent for Hispanics;[5]
  • 63 percent for people with disabilities;[6]
  • 56 percent for people age 65 and over;[7]
  • 51 percent for people with limited English proficiency;[8]
  • 38 percent for households that prefer Spanish.[9]

Cost is often cited as one of the most important reasons households do not have, or lose, their broadband subscriptions.[10] The federal Lifeline program can alleviate this costly burden.

We urge you to modernize the Lifeline program this year to include broadband and ensure that all people in the U.S. have fair access to modern and essential communications services.


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

2 God B The Glory, Inc., Supportive Housing

9to5, National Association of Working Women


AIDS Project Los Angeles

Almost Home, Inc.

Arizona Asian American Association

Arizona Community Action Association

Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center

Asian American Psychological Association

Asian and Latino Community Services, Inc.

Asian Law Alliance

Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs

Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor

Austin Free - Net

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Axiom Technologies


Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore

Bethany Community Services, Inc.

Bethel Community

Brain Injury Association of America

Bronx Jewish Community Council, Inc.

Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition

Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation, Inc. (CANAR, Inc.)

Casa Major, Inc.

Cascade AIDS Project

Community Development Corporation Resource Consortium, Inc. (CDCRC Inc.)

Center for Independent Living of South Jersey, Inc.

Chelan-Douglas Community Action

Chicago House and Social Service Agency

Child Care Aware of America

Child Care Council of Suffolk Inc.

Children First Family Child Care

Church Women United in New York State

Claire Heureuse Community Center, Inc.

Clarity of Mind Counseling

Cleveland Housing Network

Common Sense Kids Action

Community Action of Skagit County

Community Action Partnership

Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho

Community Development Authority of Marshfield, Wisconsin

Community Power Network of NYS

Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf

Connecting for Good

Crossroads Urban Center

Connecticut Association for Community Action

Daughters of Charity

G III Associates

God's Will In Action

Good Shepherd Community

Graceworks Housing Services

Graceworks Lutheran Services

Groundcover News

Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council

Homeless & Housing Coalition of Kentucky

Housing and Education Alliance

Human Facets International

Hunger Action Los Angeles

Hunger Free Vermont

Illinois Felician Associates

IMPRUVE Paratransit Riders

International Arts/Humanities Institute

Justice in Aging

Lake County Minority Health Organization

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Lopez Community Land Trust

Madison Social Services

Manchester Community Technologies, Inc.

Martha O'Bryan Center

Matrix Human Services

Media Alliance

Medical Mission Sisters

Mental Health America

Midland Development Corporation

Military Assistance Project

Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church

National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina

National Association of Social Workers

National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)

National Council on Aging

National Digital Inclusion Alliance

National Disability Rights Network

National PTA

Nazareth Housing Inc.

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.

New York State Community Action Association

Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, Inc.

Northwest Health Law Advocates

NY State Council of Churches

OCA National Center

OCA - Georgia, Greater Chicago, Greater Houston, Greater Seattle, Wisconsin, DC, and Long Island Chapters

Ohio Community Leadership Council

Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension

Partners Bridging the Digital Divide

PathWays PA

People for Public Toilets Coalition

PeterCares House

Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Placer Independent Resource Services

Preservation of Affordable Housing

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Public Justice Center

Public Knowledge


Safe Home Program, YWCA Hanover, Pennsylvania

Salaam Legal Network & Citizens Council for Human Rights

Senior Legislative Action Committee of Sullivan County New York

Senior Service America, Inc.

Servants of Jesus, Michigan

Shepherds Heart

Sisters of Charity Federation

Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, Leadership Team

St. Paul Trinity Community

Tech Goes Home

Teens, Training, and Taxes

Torrance County Project Office

Trinity Community

United Spinal Association


Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC)

Utahns Against Hunger

Vecinos Unidos, Inc.

Veterans For Peace-NYC Chapter 34

West Valley Neighborhoods Coalition

Westside Center for Independent Living


Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice

Young Invincibles

Youth Policy Institute

YWCA Central Alabama

YWCA of the Greater Capital Region (NY), Inc.

[1]Common Sense Kids Action Policy Brief, The Benefits of Broadband Expansion to America's Economy, Education and Health (June 2015).

[2]Gerry Smith, Without Internet, Urban Poor Fear Being Left Behind, Huffington Post (March 2012).

[3]American Library Association, Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study (2011-2012).

[4]File, Thom and Camille Ryan, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-28, U.S. Census Bureau, Table 1 (2014) (ACS 2013).

[5]Zickuhr, Kathryn and Aaron Smith, Home Broadband 2013, Pew Research Center at 3 (Aug 2013).

[6]ACS 2013 at Table 1.



[9]Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project, Presentation at Washington Post Live 2013 Bridging the Digital Divide forum (Nov. 5, 2013).

[10]Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center, U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015 (April 2015).

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