Lifeline Awareness Week: In 2018, Protecting Universal Service Is More Important Than Ever

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Sept 10-14 is National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week. The Federal Communications Commission, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates mark this week to highlight the critical role of the he federal Lifeline program. Despite the tangible benefits of Lifeline, in 2017 the FCC proposed substantial changes to Lifeline that would severely damage the program and harm the low-income and vulnerable families that rely on Lifeline for basic connectivity. And while the FCC’s proposals would inflict significant harm on the poorest US households, they would essentially do nothing to achieve FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s stated goals of promoting broadband deployment and reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in Lifeline.

Under the FCC’s 2017 Lifeline proposals, marginalized and vulnerable individuals and families would be most severely harmed. Two in five homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender – 650,000 homeless LGBT teenagers on the streets who face a special risk of bullying, discrimination, and assault. Lifeline provides access to connectivity necessary for homeless, at-risk youth to find a safe place to live, and find the support they need.  Furthermore, roughly 20,000 women, men, and children in the U.S. call a domestic violence hotline on any given day. Seventy-seven percent of domestic violence prevention programs distribute phones that are subsidized by Lifeline, and the current proposal would eviscerate the support system available to domestic violence victims. For domestic violence survivors, access to basic communications service may be their only tool to contact law enforcement and legal advice, seek medical assistance, secure alternative housing, and access financial services. Many other communities are at risk.

As we celebrate Lifeline Awareness Week, we recognize the value of Lifeline in our society, acknowledge how it is under attack, and resolve to protect and preserve the benefits the program provides to the most vulnerable among us.

In 2018, Protecting Universal Service Is More Important Than Ever