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ACA: Lifeline Needs Major Overhaul

The American Cable Association says that the FCC's Lifeline program needs a major overhaul as the FCC migrates the phone subsidy for low income Americans to a broadband subsidy.

That came in reply comments to the FCC on its proposal for migrating the program to broadband and updating it in the process.

ACA president Matt Polka says the program is "riddled" with flaws, including costly and burdensome reporting requirements (always a disproportionate burden on smaller operators) and too restrictive participation process (the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in its comments agreed more carriers should be able to participate).

ACA signaled those flaws are correctable if the FCC is willing to do the following.

  1. Allow providers to require pre-payment for service
  2. Support recurring and one-time cost
  3. Allow customers to use the subsidy toward any service
  4. Not impose the FCC's own service requirements
  5. Have third parties, rather than carriers, verify eligibility
  6. Give benefits directly to Lifeline customers
  7. Streamline the provide eligibility process.

"ACA does not believe it has all the answers for correcting the program," says Polka, "but its fixes are crucial, especially to give low-income consumers real choice of valuable services by multiple providers, to reduce opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse, and to address the lack of fiscal responsibility."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.