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.
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.
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.
Much has been made of the political theatre that surrounded the FCC’s recent vote to modernize the decades-old Lifeline program. A minority on the Commission is pushing a narrative with all the appeal of a particularly wonky House of Cards episode (without the sex and murder): frantic negotiation, last-minute compromises, staff all-nighters, strong-armed negotiation tactics, improper outside influence, and interference from Capitol Hill, the works. All the while they bemoaned the loss of a bipartisan compromise that, they claim, would have brought meaningful reform to the Lifeline program.