Civil Rights and Public Interest Groups Express Support for FCC’s Lifeline Modernization Proposal
September 8, 2015 - Posted by Julie Faust
In response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) request for comments on its proposal to modernize the Lifeline program to include broadband, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights submitted comments to the FCC on August 31 strongly supporting the proposal and offering recommendations for the modernization effort.
Created in 1984 under President Reagan, the Lifeline program helps low-income people afford access to telephone service, whether they use wireless or traditional technology. And though it’s been successful, Lifeline needs to be updated to address current needs. The FCC recognizes this limitation and is currently working to improve and modernize the program.
In today’s digital age, broadband access is absolutely essential in connecting people to educational opportunities, jobs, health care, and more. Yet, for many low-income Americans – those who would gain the most from the benefits of broadband – high speed internet services are simply unaffordable. 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 incomes below $25,000, 64 percent for African Americans, and 53 percent for Hispanics. Lifeline is the only federal program that addresses the cost of broadband.
The comments filed by The Leadership Conference build upon the Lifeline principles that they and more than 50 other organizations submitted to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in June. Broadly, the principles call for a Lifeline program design that ensures universality; excellence; choice and competition; innovation; and efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
In its comments, The Leadership Conference provides numerous recommendations to guide the FCC’s Lifeline modernization work. The recommendations include incentivizing providers to offer the best services to consumers, adopting a goal of significant participation in the Lifeline program, the creation of Lifeline implementation incentive grants to fund state efforts that enhance program implementation, and the centralization of a Lifeline applicant eligibility verifier.
Click here to read The Leadership Conference’s comments in full. You can read the comments submitted by several civil rights, public interest, media reform, education, and low-income advocates below: