FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
[Commentary] As we get deeper into hurricane season, Washington should be doing what it can to keep [the Lifeline program] in place. When people on the island prepare for this year’s storms and amass their 10 days of supplies, they should have the comfort of knowing that the Federal Communications Commission is not undermining the program they use to stay connected. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, the agency has announced plans to gut the Lifeline program by as much as 70 percent of participants. To justify such a drastic cut, the FCC says it wants to prevent program waste.
Nationwide, nearly two in five homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That adds up to 650,000 young people on our streets who face special risk of bullying, discrimination, and assault. To stay safe, they rely on something simple — a wireless phone. Many homeless LGBT young people are eligible for a program that helps them get wirelessly connected. It’s called Lifeline. For decades, Lifeline has been run by the Federal Communications Commission.
[June 11], the Federal Communications Commission’s misguided repeal of network neutrality goes into effect. This is bad news for all of us who rely on an open internet for so many facets of civic and commercial life. Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road.
I want to harness your energies this morning to talk about three things we can work on together. First, broadband deployment and the infrastructure challenge it presents for cities. Second, broadband adoption and the challenge it presents for students stuck in what I call the Homework Gap. And third and finally, an update on net neutrality.
When the National Network to End Domestic Violence polled nearly 300 domestic violence prevention programs, it found that 77 percent of domestic violence prevention programs distributed phones. These phones included devices from a program run by the Federal Communications Commission: Lifeline. But the FCC has proposed dramatically cutting the Lifeline program. It has announced plans to gut the service for 70 percent of current users. To justify these cuts, the agency says that because some phone companies abused the program by enrolling ineligible consumers, the program doesn’t work.
[Press release] Today, the FCC gave notice that net neutrality protections will be taken off the books on June 11. This is profoundly disappointing. The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land. The agency turned a blind eye to serious problems in its process—from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in its files. The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people.
[Speech] Something here is not right—and what is wrong is not confined to the Federal Communications Commission. Because fake comments and stolen identities are pouring into proceedings across Washington. They’ve been uncovered at the Department of Labor, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The civic infrastructure we have for accepting public comment in the rulemaking process is not built for the digital age.
Commissioner Clyburn has been a forceful advocate for change, for equal opportunity, and for closing the digital divide. It was a privilege to support her historymaking leadership as Acting Chairwoman. It has been an honor to work alongside her to put consumers first and bring connectivity to those at greatest risk of being left behind—urban, rural, and everywhere in between. I am proud to have worked together with her to support net neutrality and grateful to have been her partner in her unwavering work to remedy the grave injustice of exorbitant prison phone rates.
Today the Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a rule to prohibit the future use of Universal Service Funds to purchase equipment or services from providers identified as posing a national security risk. Congress has repeatedly expressed concern about the potential for supply chain vulnerability to undermine national security, and I will vote to approve. But our communications networks face other security threats that we cannot continue to ignore.
[Speech] We now regularly see the highest level of our government denouncing real news as false facts. We watch how this sentiment is used to stir up anger, and we see how those in power bestow favors on outlets with narratives that flatter rather than offer the hard-hitting assessments we need. What is happening now is what journalism Professor Jay Rosen has called “not just attacking the press but the conditions that make it possible for news reports to serve as any kind of check on power.” That’s not a state of affairs we should accept.