Groups Make Last Ditch Lifeline Pitch

The FCC is getting pushback from various groups as the Nov. 16 vote on revamping the Lifeline low-income phone/internet subsidy program approaches.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is looking to put the fund on a budget and is intent on cleaning up waste, fraud and abuse. The General Accountability Office, for example, has found major problems with the Lifeline program.

But various fans of the program see the chairman's revamp as widening the digital divide and posing a threat to connectivity for minorities, the poor, the disabled and veterans.

"Eliminating all non-facilities based resellers from the program, implementing a self-enforcing budget cap, and imposing a lifetime benefit limit...will gut the program and continue to widen the digital divide," the groups said in a statement. They also wrote Chairman Pai (unnecessary and reckless changes  registering those concerns).

Related: NHMC: Pai Lifeline Proposal Widens Digital Divide

Carmen Scurato of the National Hispanic Media Coalition called the proposal "unnecessary and reckless changes."

Pai bills the proposal as a way to "more effectively and efficiently help close the digital divide by directing Lifeline funds to the areas where they are most needed," as the FCC put it in its fact sheet on the item.

Among those signing on to the letter were the NAACP, Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Free Press and Public Knowledge.

Elsewhere, as flags prepare to be unfurled for Veteran's Day, self-described limited government group Alliance for Freedom says its poll shows that two out of three active duty military personnel or their family members who responded said they opposed capping the FCC's Lifeline program.

The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling Research, found that 66% of those answering said it would be unfair to limit the Lifeline service providers if it meant that would end or significantly reduce access to the program by veterans during or after their service.

The poll was conducted Nov. 6-7 among 1,087 members of the military and their families. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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.