FCC Should Evaluate the Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Lifeline Program

Coverage Type: research
Government Accountability Office (GAO), 441 G St., NW, Washington, DC, 20548, United States

The Government Accountability Office was asked to review the Federal Communications Commission’s 2012 reforms of its Lifeline program which provides discounts on telephony for eligible low-income households. This report examines (1) the status of reform efforts and the extent to which FCC has evaluated program effectiveness, (2) the extent to which households participate and challenges they face in accessing and retaining benefits, and (3) FCC’s plans to evaluate the broadband pilot program.

GAO has found that program evaluation can help agencies understand whether a program is addressing an intended problem. Without a program evaluation, FCC does not know whether Lifeline is effectively ensuring the availability of telephone service for low-income households while minimizing program costs. GAO recommends that the FCC should conduct a program evaluation to determine the extent to which the Lifeline program is efficiently and effectively reaching its performance goals.


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