Over 250 Groups Seek More Expansive Lifeline Response from FCC

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Some 250 groups, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Benton Insitute for Broadband & Society, have gotten together to tell the Federal Communications Commission it needs to take further actions to help low-income residents stay connected during the coronavirus crisis. 

In an order released March 17, the FCC waived the program's re-certification and re-verification requirements for 60 days, which has become something of a standard for the suspension of regular processes. It also suspended for those 60 days the requirement that participating carriers' representatives register with the Universal Service Fund, which implements the Lifeline subsidy. But the groups signaled it was now time for larger strides. Specifically, they want the FCC to: 

  • Immediately prohibit disconnections of Lifeline consumers. The groups suggest the prohibition last 120 days, while the typical period ISPs are setting for various waivers and price breaks is currently 60 days
  • Within no more than one week, require Lifeline providers to offer unlimited voice minutes and unlimited texting and commensurate voice-only financial support [they also want the FCC to boost the subsidy to cover the extra minutes
  • Within no more than 21 days, create an emergency Lifeline broadband benefit. Suggest $50 per month when the 60-day ISP offer of free service ends
  • No waiting periods for service or prohibitions on service to consumers who have not paid past bills. The FCC should waive the obligation that providers be eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs).

Over 250 Groups Seek More Expansive Lifeline Response from FCC Read the Letter