A April 2013 Congressional hearing made us think – “Why don’t we make it easy for people to follow developments in the FCC’s Lifeline program?”
Every K-12 school must have a 21st-century remote access plan to complement the CDC guidance and Congress must direct the necessary funding for bringing broadband access to all public schools in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.
Telehealth services surged during the coronavirus pandemic, and yet we have to deal with the harsh reality that Black communities disproportionately lack access to the telecommunications services that provide access to critical, life-saving care. This is why I have called for an expansion of the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program, which is the only federal subsidy that offers voice and broadband services at a subsidized rate to low-income Americans, to meet the critical needs of this moment in history.
The introduction of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadband Deployment Act by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) is an important development in the vital Universal Service Fund (USF) program. At a time when all trends point toward reduced regulation as the key to expanding broadband access to more consumers, especially those living in the more costly and remote service areas, this needed legislative reform would eliminate the outdated requirement of an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) designation for broadband providers seeking USF grant money.
School districts are taking it upon themselves to help families get connected to the internet as they face down a long future of virtual learning. Most schools don't even know which students are lacking internet service, and the neediest families are often the hardest to reach. Perhaps the most ambitious initiative is a $50 million, public-private partnership in Chicago, which aims to provide 100,000 public school students with home internet service for four years. The most successful districts have maximized their purchasing power by partnering with other nearby districts or municipalities
Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks spoke about internet inequality during a USTelecom webinar "The Role of Connectivity in Digital Equity and Inclusion." Commissioner Starks said he uses the term internet inequality rather than the digital divide because beyond the issue of access was the issue of affordability. He said there are millions of Americans who simply can't afford the internet. While the rural digital divide is very important, Commissioner Starks said the lack of connectivity in certain urban areas was a problem he was increasingly fixated on.
The Lifeline program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy (more on tribal lands) to companies that provide phone or broadband service to low-income consumers, generally at no out-of-pocket cost to the customer. But, less than a fifth of the 38 million households that qualify for the program are actually enrolled. And despite a recent uptick, enrollment remains down sharply from the Obama era. "It's very clear that the program is needed now more than ever," said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to Sen. Tom Udall (D-CO) on June 22, 2020, to respond to the senator's letter asking the FCC to prioritize relief for low-income citizens by increasing Lifeline support. Chairman Pai said the FCC waived certain Lifeline program rules and allowed Lifeline applicants on rural tribal lands to begin receiving Lifeline benefits while their application was in the process of being verified.
According the latest Census data on computer and Internet use, 85.7% of Americans have fixed-line broadband service in the home. But during the COVID pandemic, it is the 14.3% of broadband “have nots” getting all the attention.
Senators Wyden, Blumenthal, Hirono and Schumer Introduce Bill To Ensure Americans Keep Broadband Access During the Pandemic
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband access in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Connections Act – sponsored by 26 Senate Democrats – would provide a $50/month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, along with a range of other assistance to ensure families can access critical online services.
Chairman Pai's Response to Members of Congress Regarding Newly-Eligible Low-Income Consumers Newly Eligible for Discounted Telephone and Broadband Service Through Lifeline Program
On June 15, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wrote to Members of Congress about the FCC's efforts to inform newly-eligible low-income consumers about their eligibility for discounted broadband and telephone service through the Lifeline program. The FCC and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the Lifeline program, have undertaken numerous efforts to promote Lifeline awareness during the pandemic to ensure that consumers who are newly eligible for the program due to loss of employment or income have the information and resources they need