On November 16, the FCC released a ‘re-think’ of the Lifeline program. Directed exclusively at low-income households and providing a $9.25 monthly subsidy, Lifeline is the only federal program specifically designed to make phone and broadband service more affordable. While offering a digital gateway to the modern economy, the program also regularly receives criticism about significant fraud and waste.
The FCC decision focuses squarely on prior criticisms, and plans to scale back the $2.25 billion annual program in three important ways. First, it proposes to only support facilities-based providers, and might prevent resellers (telecom providers who provide service, but don’t own and operate their network) from offering subsidized subscription plans. That limit will especially impact those on Tribal Lands, who can no longer get enhanced lifeline support of an extra $25 every month through resellers. Second, the decision may introduce a national spending cap and third, it might disallow national approvals of qualified Lifeline providers.
While Lifeline may be in need of reform, the proposed changes will only make it harder for low-income Americans to enjoy the benefits of broadband in their homes. At a time when far too many people are digitally disconnected and digital skills are more important than ever, these reforms push the national economy in the wrong direction.
On November 16, the FCC released a ‘re-think’ of the Lifeline program. Directed exclusively at low-income households and providing a $9.25 monthly subsidy, Lifeline is the only federal program spec…