FCC Providing Broadband To Poor Families Through Lifeline

    January 31, 2012
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

The FCC is reforming and modernizing their Lifeline program that provides telephone service to poor families across the nation.

On their Web site today, the FCC detailed the planned changes to the Lifeline program. For those unaware, the Lifeline program “fulfills Congress’ mandate to ensure the availability of communications to all Americans.” The program prides itself on providing millions of low-income Americans basic phone service.

While the program has raised the rate of households with phone service from 80 percent in 1985 to 92 percent last year, there’s still more to be done according to the FCC. They say that the program contains rules that have “failed to keep pace as consumers increasingly choose wireless phone service.”

The FCC plans to save $200 million in 2012 and force themselves to adopt a budget for 2013 after reviewing a six-month report. They are to create a National Lifeline Accountability Database to “prevent multiple carriers from receiving support for the same subscriber.” There is also the creation of an eligibility database to cut down on fraud. The group is lastly establishing a one-per-household rule that would define a household as an “economic unit” so that multiple low-income families living at the same address can get connected.

The FCC will be phasing out support for services like Toll Limitation – “subsidies to carriers for blocking or restricting long-distance service” and ending Link Up – “subsidies to carriers for initial connection charges.” They do, however, say that Link Up will continue in tribal lands.

The more interesting part is that the FCC will be modernizing Lifeline to include money that will help low-income families afford broadband Internet.

They will establish the “Broadband Adoption Pilot Program” using $25 million in savings from other reforms. They will start soliciting applications from broadband providers this year and will select a number of projects to fund. They want to clarify that this is not a free meal. Lifeline will help reduce the monthly cost of broadband, but applicants will have to pony up for the cost of the devices and become digitally literate.

They also propose digital literacy training at libraries and schools. This will build on FCC efforts to “close the broadband adoption gap and address digital literacy.”

Lastly, they want to provide Lifeline support for “bundled services plans combining voice and broadband or packages including optional calling features.”

It’s about time that the FCC brings the Internet to low-income households. The Internet has become so ingrained in our culture that not having it essentially puts a person out of the job market and reduces access to information and education.

Is this playing into the idea of the Internet as a basic human right? Or is the FCC just, as they say, modernizing their program? Let us know in the comments.

  • EHamilton

    I’ve already heard that many Christian social service agencies & veterans organizations met with the FCC to encourage the move to assist the truly needy with Internet access. As a representative for the U.S. Social Security Administration, I talk with many senior citizens & disabled Americans about how our current economic crisis can be eased in some way. Many have expressed frustration over missed opportunities because of the cost of Internet access. Several public & religious social service agencies are aware of the FCC’s new LIFELINE INTERNET program and are awaiting further word on when it will be implemented so they can provide some assistance to the needy in their areas.

    Unfortunately, I have read some public comments on the Internet from the “more fortunate” who do not want the FCC’s Lifeline Internet to help low-income Americans with this program. It’s a sad commentary on how the present well-to-do (or the ignorant)in our society have sunk into moral decay. Moral values of past generations have little interest to these immorals. Their comments show no real knowledge or understanding of the social problems of our needy fellow Americans! I believe that the FCC’s Lifeline INTERNET program will be a worthwhile venture for truly qualified low-income Americans.

  • Tim Carroll

    The funding for this program began in the early ’80s. They should be called “Reagan” phones” instead of “Obama” phones. The FCC started charging all land line charges a $3.00 fee in 1983 or 1984, ( I’m not exactly sure). In that time they have collected billions of dollars,(plus interest), that only recently has been tapped to sell cheap “pay as you go” phones to the poor. There should be an accounting for these funds that have been collected on a monthly basis from millions of people for thirty years… $200 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the total collected, (plus interest). My God they could pay off the national debt with these funds. Do the math and figure it out for yourself. These funds could and should be providing 30 Meg Broadband to all poor people in the US with lots to spare, not just cheap burner phones with the funds all going to providers that provide poor service, long wait times for technical problems that should not be there at all. You can take a photo with lots of tracfones, but you cannot transfer them to your computer, so what is the point? you have to pass around the phone for people to look at and when you drop your phone your pictures and contact lists are gone too.

  • Tim Carroll

    These new regulations demand proof of eligibility. I myself am eligible for lifeline service. I tried to get a free phone and service through SAFELINK wireless,
    However they now demand an application and proof of eligibility by FAX or Snail mail, I tried for hours to talk to a supervisor on 09-15-2014 and was placed on hold, given the same three numbers to call and placed on hold again and again. I applied by phone and gave them all my personal information and sent my proof of eligibility as well as proof that I had terminated my Service through Budgetmobile, as attached PDF and text files on e-mails to SAFELINK. I only received automated form letters by e-mail in reply, telling me that I could apply online to be sent an application by mail and that I could FAX or mail my application and proof of eligibility. I spent several hours on hold at three different numbers and finally demanded to speak to a supervisor.
    Anthony ( employee # 545637) a supposed senior manager told me that he could not access the e-mails I had sent, nor could he open the attached PDF and text files attached. He said I must complete the application they sent me by mail and return it and include a printed copy of my proof of eligibility by mail or Fax. These people all receive their paychecks, phones and minutes with FCC funding. They are gobbling up these funds and demanding that poor people like myself must go and pay to get copies printed, buy stamps or pay to have their applications and proof of eligibility Faxed. I don’t have ink for my printer, or Fax machine so I am forced to apply by mail, pay for a stamps and copies and/or pay to have my application and proof Faxed at a copier store. All because Anthony does not have access to the e-mails I sent, and claims he does not know how to open the attachments even if he could. Either Anthony is lying or just an idiot. Even small children know how to do this nowadays. In my opinion these new regulations only make it harder for poor people like myself to receive lifeline service and only fill the pockets of lifeline providers like SAFELINK.