FCC Connects Low-Income Consumers to the Internet
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Robbie’s Round-Up for the Week of April 4-8, 2016
Although the Federal Communications Commission has not yet released a report and order on its decision to modernize the Lifeline program, we wanted to share a quick summary of the decision. Below, please find a great summary from Anthony L. Butler, a Consumer Education & Outreach Specialist in the Consumer Affairs & Outreach Division of the FCC's Consumer Governmental Affairs Bureau. The Benton Foundation will share a more detailed summary of the historic decision after the report and order is released.
Today’s consumers need Internet access for full and meaningful participation in society. Yet 43 percent of nation’s poorest households say they can’t afford modern broadband service. To help close this digital divide, the Commission adopted an order on March 31, 2016, to refocus Lifeline support on broadband. This will help low-income Americans share in the 21st Century opportunities that access to the Internet provides.
Robust broadband support under the modernized program:
- Allows Lifeline support for stand-alone mobile or fixed broadband Internet access service, as well as bundles including fixed or mobile voice and broadband
- Phases in mobile broadband requirement over five years
- Helps close the homework gap by promoting the offering of mobile devices with Wi-Fi and hotspot functionality
To ensure quality service for Lifeline subscribers, the new rules include minimum standards:
- Fixed speed standard based on what a substantial majority of consumers receive (currently 10 Mbps downloads/1 Mbps uploads)
- Sets minimum monthly fixed broadband usage allowance standard, starting at 150 GB and updated thereafter
- Phases in minimum standards for mobile broadband service, starting at 500 MB per month of 3G data by Dec. 1, 2016, 1 GB by Dec. 1, 2017, and increasing to 2 GB per month by the end of 2018
- Phases in mobile voice monthly standards: 500 min/mo., beginning on Dec. 1, 2016; 750 min/mo. on Dec. 1, 2017; and 1,000 min/mo., starting on Dec. 1, 2018.
- Anticipates technological advances in the convergence of mobile voice and data, phasing in broadband requirement as support for stand-alone voice decreases to $7.25 on Dec. 1, 2019; $5.25 by Dec. 1, 2020; and no support by Dec. 1, 2021, except in areas where there is only one Lifeline provider
- Voice remains eligible for full support as part of a voice and data bundle
The new order builds on recent reforms to help consumers while minimizing impacts to ratepayers and preventing waste, fraud and abuse:
- Creates a National Eligibility Verifier to reduce administrative burden on service providers and prevent enrollment of ineligible subscribers
- Refines the list of federal programs that may be used to validate Lifeline eligibility to those that support electronic validation, are most accountable, and best identify people needing support (SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, Veterans Pension, HUD Federal Public Housing Assistance, Tribal), along with income-based eligibility
- Maintains the current $9.25 monthly household subsidy
Please go to https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-modernizes-lifeline-program-digital-age for the press release about Lifeline modernization.
To learn more about the Lifeline program for low-income Americans, visit https://www.fcc.gov/general/lifeline-program-low-income-consumers.
Further Lifeline Reading
- Everyone Needs Broadband. Now More Low-Income Americans Will Be Able to Afford It. (White House)
- FCC makes essential Lifeline progress (Blair Levin, Brookings)
- Democratic Reps unleashed last-minute lobbying to change Lifeline deal (The Hill)
- Commissioner Pai’s Plan and the FCC Lifeline “Compromise” That Wasn’t (Public Knowledge)
- FCC Unveils Consumer Broadband Labels to Provide Greater Transparency to Consumers (FCC)
- U.S. Department of Commerce Seeks Comment on Potential Policy Issues Related to Internet of Things (Commerce Dept)
- Verizon, CLECs Strike Deal on Special Access (Multichannel News)
- U.S. Adds China’s Internet Controls to List of Trade Barriers (New York Times)
Weekend Reads (resist TL;DR)
- Cellphones are too dangerous for prison (Gov Nikki Haley (R-SC) and Commissioner Pai, USA Today)
- Why privacy pros should care about the FCC’s broadband privacy rules (Jim Hallpert, IAPP)
- Netflix, self-interest and net neutrality (Patrick Maines, The Hill)
Events Calendar for the Week of April 11-15, 2016
- April 11 -- The FCC's Privacy Proposal: Help or Hindrance?, Technology Policy Institute panel
ICYMI from Benton
Can The FCC Protect Internet Subscribers’ Online Privacy?, Andrew Jay Schwartzman