The FCC drew a crowd of Lifeline reform fans, and that was essentially everybody, to its contentious vote Thursday (March 31) to expand the Lifeline low-income advanced telecommunications subsidy to stand-alone broadband and boost the fund to $2.25 billion.
“Notwithstanding the controversy that occurred over the Lifeline action at today’s meeting, positive steps were taken to move Lifeline into the 21st century by beginning the transition of the program from voice to broadband," said AT&T SVP of federal regulatory Bob Quinn. "The agency also started the process of removing carriers from determining whether or not consumers are eligible to receive the benefits of Lifeline service. The administrative reforms contemplated by today’s action will enable service providers to focus on better serving the participants in the program. We appreciated that the agency took the time to engage with stakeholders to understand the industry’s issues that exist in the current program."
“This subsidy is an important step toward ensuring that all Americans can share in the benefits that broadband access provides,” said Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton. “We applaud the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel in moving forward to help close the digital divide. CWA will continue to work for universal broadband access for all.”
"We commend the FCC’s actions today to modernize the Lifeline program to support broadband," said the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. "The cable industry has long been a leader in providing affordable broadband service to low-income Americans and continues to work with private partners to expand digital literacy and overcome adoption barriers. Streamlined Lifeline provider requirements will encourage robust participation, offering eligible low-income consumers increased options among plans and providers, while enabling the FCC to provide sufficient oversight of the program to combat waste, fraud and abuse. The FCC’s update to the Lifeline program takes important steps to help even more Americans adopt broadband at home."
“Broadband connectivity is essential to full participation in society, but for too long, low-income households have been forced to rely on spotty connectivity at fast food restaurants and coffee shops," said Todd O’Boyle, program director at Common Cause. "Thanks to today’s vote, more families will have access to the greatest engine for economic, educational, and civic opportunity ever created. Kudos to the majority at the FCC.”
“Broadband is essential to full participation in today’s digital age, and the American Library Association (ALA) commends the Commission for including broadband support as part of a modernized Lifeline program. With affordable, high-quality broadband access at the library, at school, and now within reach for millions more people at home, the Commission continues to fulfill its universal service mission," said Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association.
“The FCC has helped to advance our understanding that access to high-speed Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity," said James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, which has been a driving force behind expanding high speed broadband to schools and libraries. "Adults need it to apply for jobs, upgrade their skills, access government services, and fully participate in our Democracy. And children and teens need it to complete their schoolwork, explore ideas and learn online, and seek answers about their health."
“By voting to bring the Lifeline program into the 21st century, the FCC will be taking a crucial step in narrowing our country’s digital divide and ensuring that all Americans have access to the essential communications services they need to live, learn, and work in today’s digital age," said Wade Henderson of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
"Cost of access is a tremendous, documented barrier to broadband adoption. By modernizing the Lifeline program to support broadband, the FCC is taking a critical step to ensure that a our country's most vulnerable households have affordable access to a vital service that many of us take for granted," said Sarah Morris, senior counsel and director of Open Internet Policy at the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation.
"Chairman Wheeler’s Lifeline modernization proposal is a critical step toward making broadband affordable for all Americans," said Phillip Berenbroick, counsel for government affairs at Public Knowledge. "Access to broadband Internet service has become a necessity in modern America."
“This subsidy is an important step toward ensuring that all Americans can share in the benefits that broadband access provides,” said Communications Workers of America president Chris Shelton. “We applaud the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel in moving forward to help close the digital divide."
“The vote to modernize Lifeline and to provide the first nationwide subsidy for low-income household access to broadband service will make a huge difference in the lives of tens of millions of families," said Cheryl Leanza, advisor at United Church of Christ. "United Church of Christ's media justice ministry and its partners in the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have been asking for the Lifeline program to subsidize broadband access since 2010."
"Congratulations to Commissioner Clyburn for her vision and tenacity, to Chairman Wheeler for his leadership, and to Commissioner Rosenworcel for her efforts to close the homework gap.”
“In just the past week, over 15,000 Demand Progress members signed a petition calling on the FCC to modernize the Lifeline program," said Demand Progress director of operations and communications Mark Stanley. "Expanding access to broadband is a crucial step in diminishing the inequality created by the digital divide, which poses a direct threat to our democracy and economy.”
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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.