On the heels of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to restructure and modernize the Commission’s Lifeline program, IIA sent a letter today in support of the rulemaking proceeding soon to be initiated to advance Lifeline reform.
From the letter, signed by IIA Chairmen Rick Boucher, Bruce Mehlman, Larry Irving and Jamal Simmons:
“The Internet serves as a 21st century tool that promotes civic engagement and enables citizens to access education, healthcare, government services and job opportunities. Not having high-speed broadband service limits access to the benefits and opportunities offered in today’s global digital economy.
“In the U.S., consumers with economic means have nearly ubiquitous access to broadband, yet almost two-thirds of our nation’s low-income community continues to seek that similar opportunity. Without broadband availability, low-income families face an uphill battle in obtaining the American dream.
“In bringing Lifeline into the 21st century, broadband should be included as an integral, more affordable offering of the program, and consumers should be empowered by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies. Moreover, to enhance administrative efficiency, we urge the FCC to shift program eligibility verification away from companies that are not accountable to the American people, and instead allow states to verify eligibility for Lifeline at the same time they determine consumer eligibility for other federal low-income programs. Such ‘coordinated enrollment’ would benefit consumers by streamlining the eligibility process and ultimately enable subsidy recipients to receive a ‘Lifeline Benefit Card’ where consumers could apply the funds to the provider of their choosing. These reforms would make program participation for all service providers more attractive, thereby broadening consumer choice and stimulating competition for the low-income consumer purchasing power.
“IIA applauds the Commission for quickly moving forward to initiate a new proceeding aimed to advance Lifeline reform this year. The time for reform is now, the need is great, and the goal is achievable. “