The Lifeline program is an integral part of bringing and keeping low income American’s across the nation online. It is essential that it remains accessible to populations who need it most such as students, veterans, seniors, the disabled, domestic violence victims, and those recovering from natural disasters. On August 14, 2020, Next Century Cities along with other public interest organizations signed-on to comments authored by the National Consumer Law Center. The comments focus on strengthening the Lifeline program and several of the minimum service standards in place.
You can read the full filing here. It urged the Commission to wait until the completion of the report analyzing the state of the Lifeline marketplace to make any decisions that will affect who will be able to be able to access these resources. Other key takeaways include:
- The Commission should not raise the minimum service standard from 3 GBs to 11.75 GBs until the completion of the State of the Lifeline Marketplace study.
- Lifeline is critical during the pandemic as people have become reliant upon their phones and computers in order to accomplish tasks that have not required an internet connection in the past.
- The Commission should not decrease Lifeline voice support amount from $7.25 to $5.25 per month.
The Lifeline program is the only federal program that helps to make essential communications services available to low-income households across the nation. If the Commission increases the minimum service standard there is a risk that providers may introduce a co-pay for increased data services. This co-pay may be more than many low-income Americans can afford and, if implemented, would widen the digital divide as fewer people in need would be able to access resources to get online.