This week is National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week. The Federal Communications Commission, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates mark this week to highlight the critical role of the federal Lifeline program. Lifeline provides subsidies to low-income families for basic voice or broadband service, and has been a key component of promoting universal service for over three decades. Universal service and universal access to essential communications tools have been the cornerstone of U.S. communications policy dating to the 1930s.
Last week, Public Knowledge filed reply comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry entitled, “Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers.” The NPRM & NOI propose to eliminate affordable broadband choices for millions of low-income and vulnerable families that participate in the Lifeline program.
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.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to modernize the Lifeline program for the digital age to help low-income families, veterans, and children gain access to the internet. This week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is poised to initiate steps to drastically roll back the program, ultimately leaving millions of Lifeline subscribers and eligible families without a service provider.
When people use the internet, they provide a vast amount of personal, often sensitive information. Ill-protected personal information can result in anything from predatory advertising to fraud. Consumers need strong rules and aggressive agencies to protect their online privacy. The Federal Communications Commission is the agency in charge of implementing and enforcing communications law and regulations. The FCC is ideally situated to protect consumers’ information on communications networks, considering its success in protecting subscribers’ privacy in other areas such as telephone and cable networks.