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Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report on the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program’s application process. The GAO investigated multiple Lifeline providers and failed to confirm the eligibility of roughly a third of participants.
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“The Lifeline program was established during the Reagan-era and has helped make critical communications services more affordable for low-income families for more than thirty years.
“In 2016 the FCC recognized that the internet is the essential communications service of the 21st century, and that families rely on broadband access for communicating with loved ones, as well as education, employment, health care, news, and civic engagement. As a result, the FCC modernized the Lifeline program to meet the needs of low-income families that could not afford broadband services -- to help close the affordability gap that limits the economic and educational opportunities for millions of families.
“Historically, the improper payment rate of the Lifeline program has been significantly lower than the corresponding rate across the federal government. Since 2012, the Commission has repeatedly taken action to protect the integrity of the Lifeline program. As GAO reported in 2015, the FCC has demonstrated significant progress implementing its reforms to address problems with duplicates and ineligible participants.
“Today’s GAO’s report reflects the need for the FCC and USAC to fully build out the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier established by the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order. The National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier will help ensure that subscribers are eligible to participate in the Lifeline program; that service providers can focus their resources on serving consumers; and that ratepayers to the Universal Service Fund have confidence their contributions are increasing the affordability of broadband access for low-income households and promoting universal service.”