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Blumenthal Says Lifeline Must Serve Troops

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is the ranking member on the Veterans Affairs committee, says the FCC and the VA need to get together to make sure basic broadband service is available to all veterans.

That comes in a letter to the FCC as it collects comments on reforming and updating its Lifeline broadband subsidy (comments were due Aug. 31). That is the program, funded into by telecoms and their ratepayers, that subsidizes telecommunications service to low-income Americans.

Blumenthal called for including broadband in the Lifeline program, but he was pretty much preaching to the choir. The only real disputes are over how to do that, how to determine eligibility, and how much support legacy service will continue to get. 

The FCC has already signaled its plan to expand the subsidy from traditional phone service to broadband, something it is doing with other Universal Service Fund programs—high-cost, schools and libraries.

Blumenthal is all for that migration, but wants to make sure the FCC doesn't forget the troops.

“I urge FCC and VA to collaborate on outreach efforts to veterans, veterans’ and military service organizations, and housing organizations, to widely disseminate information on this historically successful program, its benefits, and enrollment opportunities  for eligible veterans," he said in a letter to VA secretary Robert A. McDonald and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. "It is our duty to ensure that veterans with limited or no income are accessing each and every resource they may be eligible for.”

He wants all veterans in VA programs with qualifying income levels to be automatically eligible for Lifeline.