Earlier this year, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) came out with a proposal for the Lifeline program that would effectively take away phone and broadband service from millions of the program’s beneficiaries. In March, a letter drafted by a band of Democratic Senators, including the senator of California, Kamala Harris, estimated that 8.4 million out of the 12 million people currently benefitting from the Lifeline program would be left without a wireless provider – the reason is that the passing of the proposal would prevent telecommunication resellers from offering Lifeline-subsidized service. A reseller is a company, like ours, that purchases capacity from a mobile network operator such as Verizon, T-Mobile, América Móvil, etc. and resells it directly to consumers. The proposal threatens business for resellers as well as the global connectivity of those living in poverty. The progress of technology is not slowing down anytime soon, meaning that if this proposal goes through, the ‘Digital Divide’ will be at risk of becoming unresolvable.
On top of looking to ban resellers from offering Lifeline-subsidized services, the FCC proposal also reveals their intention to place a spending cap on the Lifeline program which currently has no hard cap. The current budget of the Lifeline program sits at around $2.25 billion, but if the FCC’s proposal were to be passed, government spending to the program would likely be drastically reduced, leaving a solid percentage of the qualifying individuals without the necessary resources to have their telecommunication services subsidized.
Lifeline beneficiaries may be confused as to why the FCC proposal seeks to perform major cuts in spending on the program given that just a couple years ago the government agency was doubling down on the Lifeline program. Well, a couple years ago the FCC was a Democratically dominated one. Although the current FCC is a Republican-dominated one, this proposal does not hold a uniform political backing. Both liberals and conservatives have come out to express their disagreement with the proposal. Per ArsTechnica, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Free State Foundation, two groups that supported the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules, both released statements   that expressed their disagreement with the FCC’s proposal. In the aforementioned letter drafted by the Democratic Senators, a statement was made:
“It is your obligation to the American public, as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to improve the Lifeline program and ensure that more Americans can afford access, and have means of access, to broadband and phone service. Your proposal accomplishes the exact opposite – it takes resources out of the hands of the most vulnerable Americans.”
– U.S. Senators
How We Can Save Lifeline
It is important for anyone who is opposed to the FCC’s proposal to act now. The FCC has already begun making changes to the Lifeline program as evidenced by their removal of the additional subsidies the residents of tribal lands used to be eligible to receive. You can have a role in saving the Lifeline program in one of three ways, as provided by the Save Lifeline Organization.
We are doing our part to save the Lifeline program, having partnered with the National Lifeline Association (NaLA). NaLA, home to everything Lifeline, is a non-profit dedicated to the continuity of the Lifeline program, per their website. The members at NaLA are avid protectors of the Lifeline program and are one of the leading organizations in the field. We, along with companies such as Life Wireless, Stand Up Wireless, Assist Wireless, Safety Net Wireless, etc., have chosen to partner with NaLA because we believe in their organization and method of work. Their experienced professionals educate and advocate the benefits of the Lifeline program to the American public.
**These two resources are all you need to make a noticeable difference. Take 3-5 minutes of your day to save a program that impacts millions of your American brothers and sisters. Every voice matters.**