By Pitch Engine
Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 in favor of rules that will bring the Lifeline program into the 21st century and provide eligible low-income families access to high-quality broadband. Community-based groups affiliated with the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) applaud the leadership of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and particularly Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for pushing reforms that will address the most significant barrier to broadband adoption: affordability. Commissioner Clyburn has been a long time champion for low-income families and led the charge to modernize the Lifeline program.
“We are thrilled. Modernizing Lifeline to support affordable Internet access will help seniors like me stay healthy and connected to the outside world,” said Connie Freeman, an elderly Lifeline subscriber living on a fixed income who recently spoke at a congressional briefing on the need to bring affordable broadband to low-income communities. .
The FCC’s expansion of Lifeline will modernize the program by allowing eligible subscribers the choice to apply a $9.25 per month subsidy to either the cost of broadband or cell phone service with a data plan. The FCC’s order also sets minimum standards for both home and mobile broadband, streamlines eligibility verification through a national database, and maintains a voice-only landline option.
Access to the Internet has become a daily necessity. For the approximately 5 million students without Internet in the home, this “homework gap” creates a early disadvantage. Unemployed workers need the Internet to seek jobs. Seniors require the Internet to access healthcare information and to stay connected with the outside world.
“This expansion of Lifeline is critical to closing the digital divide and fixing an economy that excludes millions of people. We know the gap between those with Internet access and those without cuts deeper among communities of color and exacerbates existing inequalities in education, housing, and jobs,” said Steven Renderos, Senior Campaign Manager at the Center for Media Justice. “We want to especially thank Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for her leadership in bringing the Lifeline program into the 21st century.”
The following reactions are attributed to the members of the MAG-Net:
“Having access to the Internet is important and we all benefit when everyone is connected. Internet access is as vital as having a telephone was more than 35 years ago. Now I can tell some of the parents I work with that they don’t need to take that second job to pay for their internet connection.” — Ana Montes, The Utility Reform Network (San Francisco, CA)
“The greatest accomplishment of the FCC’s plan to modernize Lifeline service will be the impact this decision has on local communities across the country for generations to come. Our home town of Philadelphia hosts the headquarters of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable internet provider, yet still suffers from some of the lowest broadband adoption rates of any major city. Expanding broadband access is a necessary place of government action and Lifeline modernization is a serious step in the right direction. Thank you for making the right choice, and continuing the necessary work of bringing millions of low-income families into the type of 21st century communications access that transforms lives.” — Bryan Mercer, Media Mobilizing Project (Philadelphia, PA)
“Expanding Lifeline to include high speed Internet access affirms that communication is a human right, not a limited access luxury. Lifeline modernization, while not perfect, will open up new economic opportunities for many, increase freedom of expression for challenged communities across the nation, and advance a more equitable civic dialogue. Kudos to the FCC and bigger kudos to people all across the country who spoke up and told their stories and demanded their place at the communications table”. — Tracy Rosenberg, Media Alliance (San Francisco, CA)
“The FCC’s reforms were a step in the right direction and will help make the Internet more affordable for millions of people. Moving forward more needs to be done to link efforts like the Lifeline program to other government initiatives around the digital divide like ConnectHome and ConnectED and ensure robust education and outreach that reaches eligible families.” –Brian Dolinar, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (Illinois)
“Communication is a basic human right. The internet has become an essential utility to maintain this basic right. In New Mexico, which is mostly rural and frontier, we rely on the internet to have access to jobs, education, health/well-being and connection to family. We stand in solidarity with the FCC in extending the Lifeline program to include broadband access. This is a critical step in the right direction for all New Mexicans.” — Roberta Rael, Generation Justice (Albuquerque, NM)
“Opening up Lifeline to include broadband is a critical first step to ensuring that all families can stay connected to the services they need, the friends and family they love, and the wealth of arts, culture, education, and civic engagement opportunities that flourish online today. This step will help ensure that every child can do their homework, every adult can search for a job, and every family can stay in touch no matter how far apart they are. We’re thrilled to applaud the FCC today for helping to move all communities into the 21st century.” — Orson Aguilar, Greenlining Institute (San Francisco, CA)
“We applaud the efforts of all the families and advocates who fought hard to make this expansion of Lifeline possible. In our work the Internet has been a valuable tool in amplifying the stories of historically marginalized communities. The ability for everyone to readily connect to broadband ensures those stories can be told and heard by a greater number of people” — Erick Boustead, Line Break Media (Minneapolis, MN)