Earlier today Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated that the Commission will consider a report and order on modernizing the Lifeline program at the March 31 FCC meeting. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:
The Benton Foundation applauds the Federal Communications Commission on taking another step to reform and modernize the Lifeline program.
Broadband has a crucial impact on our economy – creating efficiencies, improving productivity, and accelerating innovation. And it is an essential service for education, public health, and public safety. Some segments of the U.S. population have reached near-100 percent broadband adoption rates. For these populations, market forces have been sufficient to get us toward our goal of universal adoption. But there are nagging, persistent divides in broadband deployment and adoption – what we at Benton call “digital deserts.” As recent research makes clear, the cost of service remains the biggest barrier to broadband adoption.
Modernizing the Lifeline program for the 21st Century is the most effective way we can make broadband service affordable for low income consumers across the nation. And there is no better time for the FCC to act than right now.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel have led the way on Lifeline reform. The Benton Foundation thanks them for their leadership and will continue to work with them as the Lifeline order is finalized and implemented.
For more on the issues related to Lifeline reform, see Lifeline Reform Reaches the Home Stretch by Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the Benton Senior Counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation.