Originally published: January 31, 2012
Last updated: May 5, 2013 - 9:51pm
Response from industry and the Hill was swift, and mixed, to the Federal Communications Commission's vote to reform the Lifeline low-income phone subsidies program and migrate it to broadband.
AT&T senior VP Bob Quinn agreed with the FCC that reform was needed, but wasn't sure the FCC was the one that should be administering the fund. US Telecom called the changes the FCC did institute "sound" and gave the FCC a shout-out for overhauling the system.
Reps Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) had nothing but encouraging words for the FCC. Matsui's support is no surprise. She introduced legislation that would provide low-income homes with broadband, saying that bill was the basis for the FCC's announced pilot program She also gave a shout out to plans to fund digital literacy outreach to schools and libraries, which will also tap into the planned savings from cutting back on waste, fraud and abuse, including duplicative subsidies.
Benton Foundation Policy Counsel Amina Fazlullah said, “At a time of nationwide economic stress, when a number of families are facing unemployment and homelessness, Lifeline ensures that these families are able to maintain a connection to potential employers, educational resources, government services and healthcare providers.”
Cost is a major barrier to many Latinos' ability to adopt broadband in their homes, noted the National Hispanic Media Coalition. As broadband continues to transform into a basic need, NHMC is pleased to see the FCC taking steps to ensure that all Americans have affordable access. Although some of the reforms announced today may come with their own challenges, NHMC is extremely heartened that the FCC did not set a cap on the Lifeline program, which would have stymied the program before its full potential is realized.
Stubborn disparities in internet access and economic opportunity can only be narrowed meaningfully by the FCC – and its announcement today shows that it sees and acknowledges this. The commissioners, Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner Clyburn in particular, recognize that Lifeline must be kept intact so that it can one day be modernized to include access to internet services and to narrow the digital divide. For that, we praise them, said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
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