FCC Adds Lifeline Waiver, Extends Deadlines

The FCC said it is making it easier for the newly unemployed due to the pandemic to qualify for subsidized broadband service. At the same time, it extended a number of Lifeline-related waivers given the ongoing pandemic.  

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Consumers on Medicaid or nutrition assistance programs qualify for the Lifeline monthly discounts on service, as can people who can show three consecutive months of unemployment. Since most pandemic-related job losses have been for far less than those three months, the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau has waived that documentation requirement, at least until June 30. 

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"COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our economy," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. "Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and it is important that they have the connectivity they need to apply for new jobs, take online classes, or get medical care via telehealth. I’m glad we’re granting this relief today, which will help those who may have only recently become eligible for Lifeline to sign up for the program and stay connected to vital broadband and phone services during the pandemic." 

The Wireline Bureau order also extended waivers related to Lifeline recertification, reverification, general de-enrollment, and usage.

"As millions shelter in place for their own health and that of their communities, Benton welcomes the FCC’s move to ease burdens on the newly unemployed," said Kevin Taglang of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. "In the emergency, the FCC must act quickly to get as many people connected as possible and today’s action is a step in the right direction. The FCC should follow up by ensuring everyone who files for unemployment is automatically enrolled in Lifeline and benefit from a reduction in their communications bill. The Commission should also expand Lifeline to provide a $50/month subsidy for broadband service."

John Eggerton

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.