Lifeline: Bringing Broadband into the 21st Century

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Last month, Public Knowledge filed comments urging the Federal Communications Commission to modernize its Lifeline program to support broadband Internet access service. Today, we submitted reply comments to explain that the FCC has overwhelming support to move forward and update the program.

The FCC has rightly recognized that broadband Internet access has become a necessity. Americans need access to broadband to find and apply for jobs; students need Internet access to complete homework assignments and access educational resources their local school may not offer; and we all increasingly rely on the Internet for news and information, to interact with our government and elected officials, and to transact business.

Unfortunately, the benefits of broadband have largely bypassed low-income Americans and other marginalized groups, where broadband adoption rates have lagged for households with income below $25,000, the unemployed, the elderly and the disabled. These groups are less able to reap the benefits of broadband as an essential “Lifeline” to lift families out of poverty.

The record in the Lifeline proceeding is impressive. Hundreds of companies; non-profit organizations; and state, local, Tribal, and federal elected officials weighed in with near unanimity that the Commission should update the Lifeline program to help make broadband more affordable for the most vulnerable of Americans.  Additionally, there was mostly universal agreement that Lifeline should also continue to support mobile and landline voice services. Many Americans continue to rely on voice service for work, to connect with friends and family, and to access emergency services like 9-1-1.

Now, the hard work begins for the Commission – sorting through hundreds of comments to determine how best to structure and reform Lifeline to support broadband. We look forward to working with the FCC to bring broadband into the 21st century as an essential service for all Americans.

Image by Jeremy Brooks.

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