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Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the agency will soon initiate a proceeding to eliminate the existing streamlined process broadband providers follow to participate in the Lifeline program, and that he does not believe the Wireline Bureau should approve Lifeline Broadband Provider applications. Public Knowledge believes Chairman Pai’s decision undermines the agency’s prior efforts to make it easier for broadband providers to participate in the Lifeline program and offer choices to low-income families.
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“Chairman Pai’s move to halt Wireline Bureau approval of all Lifeline Broadband Provider designation applications, as well as his intent to eliminate the FCC’s streamlined designation process altogether, undermines key reforms to the modernized Lifeline program that were adopted a year ago this week.
“The FCC’s Lifeline Modernization Order sought to facilitate and streamline provider participation in Lifeline broadband, protect the integrity of the program, and ensure that low-income subscribers aren’t stuck on waiting lists for essential connectivity. Chairman Pai’s intention to halt application approvals and open a new proceeding will chill additional provider participation in Lifeline, and appears to set the stage for the FCC to relitigate issues already addressed by the Order.
“Until just late last week, the Wireline Bureau was accepting comments addressing the potential reinstatement of the nine Lifeline Broadband Provider designations that were rescinded in early February. The Chairman’s action is inconsistent with the record the Bureau has compiled and places providers that have in good faith applied for Lifeline Broadband Provider status in limbo for the foreseeable future. The Chairman’s position stands in stark contrast to his stated aim to close the digital divide by raising barriers to affordable choices available to low-income families.
“Lastly, Chairman Pai’s has stated he is committed to providing Lifeline support for low-income broadband customers. We hope the Chairman’s actions going forward are consistent with this commitment and his stated goal of closing the digital divide. Unfortunately, today’s actions do not comport with those goals. We will continue our efforts to strengthen Lifeline and make broadband available and affordable for all Americans, and invite Chairman Pai to join us.”