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NCTA : Extend Lifeline to Cable

WASHINGTON — Cable operators want the government to give them more bites at the broadband subsidy apple.

In comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s lifeline subsidy last week, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association recommended widening the pool of eligible providers by making it easier to apply and allowing eligible subscribers to use the money for more than just basic broadband service.

The Lifeline broadband service program provides subsidies, paid by telecom companies and, ultimately, their subscribers, for essential communications services for low-income Americans. The NCTA’s proposals do not deal with the contribution side — that is, whether broadband operators will have to pay into the subsidy, too. That is the subject of a separate proceeding.

Rather than set minimum service standards, the NCTA said, the FCC should let Lifeline service users apply their subsidy on any level of service from any provider, including programs from Comcast and Cox Communications aimed at low-income households.

The NCTA said consumers want choice, something the FCC promotes and one of the takeaways from the FCC’s Lifeline Broadband Pilot Program. One way to boost participation in the program, the NCTA said, would be to make it easier for carriers to participate “by reversing [its] prior decision to limit Lifeline support solely to [eligible telecom carriers] and establish a streamlined national eligibility process.”