FCC Votes to Consider Rollback of Longstanding U.S. Commitment to Universal Service, Affordability

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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Fourth Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Notice of Inquiry that would immediately eliminate affordable broadband choices for residents living on Tribal lands, and begin consideration of proposals that amount to an unprecedented rollback of America’s longstanding commitment to universal service and affordable basic telecommunications services for low-income families.

The NPRM and NOI proposes to make non-facilities-based wireless providers ineligible to provide Lifeline-supported service, eliminate the streamlined Lifeline Broadband Provider designation and certification process created by the FCC’s 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order, create a self-enforcing budget cap that could cut off subscribers, and create lifetime participation limits and co-pay requirements that would punish the working poor, the homeless, and America’s most vulnerable families and deprive them of basic access to affordable telecommunications services.

The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge.

“The 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order updated the Lifeline program for the digital age and recognized that broadband access has become a basic necessity in the U.S., and is increasingly required for children to complete homework assignments, job seekers and workers to apply for employment and acquire skills, and families to stay connected. The proposals the FCC approved today reject the United States’ longstanding commitment to universal service and the bipartisan consensus that basic telecommunications services should be available to and affordable for all Americans. The Order, NPRM, and NOI collectively indicate that this FCC has no hesitation about the moral or economic consequences of stranding millions of low-income families without affordable basic communications.

“Rather than taking positive, consensus action to protect the integrity of the Lifeline program and close the digital divide by making broadband more affordable and accessible for all families, the majority has voted to pursue a path that undermines the nation’s commitment to universal service and threatens to leave millions of families, children, and veterans without basic connectivity and access to education and economic opportunity.”

View our latest blog post, “Chairman Pai Plans to Put an End to the U.S. Commitment to Universal Service and Affordability,” for more information.

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