Lifeline and Broadband: Time to Go Hand-In-Hand

Lifeline and Broadband: Time to Go Hand-In-Hand

Bringing Lifeline into the broadband world is the new project for Federal Communication Commission (FCC). We are impressed! Internet adoption is at an all-time high, and the hype is not going to die down in near future. Some habits are hard to leave. However, that same is not applicable to the entire population.

Families with low income would not show great interest broadband subscription. FCC realized that with job postings, education, and the best shopping deals all going online way, low-income strata is heavily lacking good professional and personal opportunity with lack of an internet connection becomes a significant barrier.

FCC realized it well and decided to help address this inequity. Lifeline, as we all know, is an FCC-backed telecommunication service for low-income people. It has long continued to only subsidize voice service, ignoring broadband entirely. As part of the modernization of Lifeline, FCC is using $13.8 million in savings from Lifeline reforms, for a pilot program to collect data on how the Lifeline program can be structured to increase broadband adoption (Lifeline Broadband Pilot Program).

FCC started advocating the transition of the existing program to the broadband era, as they feel that in many ways broadband is now essential for greater participation of people in community growth. FCC has outlined a framework for changing the program, along with the following five principles:

  • The current program does not incentivize service providers to give better services. The program must identify factors that encourage service providers to offer better service to customers.
  • Service providers should no longer be responsible for determining customer eligibility. Changing that construct is necessary to ensure the future integrity of the program. They should address customer privacy concern and simplify administrative work for service providers.
  • Broader participation needs to be encouraged through a streamlined approval process. Eliminate any unnecessary barriers that discourage provider participation with sufficient levels of oversight to protect against misuse, scam, and exploitation.
  • Efficiencies should be leveraged from existing programs and institute a coordinated enrolment. Other federal benefit programs are using technology to improve service, reduce fraud, and gain efficiencies – which will be used by FCC.
  • Encouraged public-private partnerships and maximize public outreach program as affordability is not the only barrier for broadband program.

Through a competitive selection process, the Wireline Competition Bureau selected 14 high-quality pilot projects, covering 21 states and Puerto Rico that provide various broadband service offerings to eligible low-income consumers using wireline or wireless technology. Low-income consumers who already subscribe to broadband at home or a mobile hotspot service were not eligible to participate in the Pilot Program.

The selected projects will study the implementation of broadband services. It would also identify and analyze the factors that impact broadband adoption by the low-income group, such as:

  • Subsidy Amounts
  • End-User Charges
  • Access to Digital Literacy
  • Data Usage Limits
  • Choices for Broadband Speed
  • Access to Equipment

From this data, the selected participants will provide feedback to the FCC regarding how the Lifeline Program could be structured to promote the adoption and retention of broadband services by low-income households.