Earlier this month, regulators told nine companies they can't take part in the Lifeline broadband program just weeks after they were approved. The move, announced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, is meant to promote program integrity by providing the FCC with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program. But what does that mean for the households that depend on Lifeline?
The FCC's Lifeline program, established in 1985, provides discounted phone and internet service for low-income households to connect with family and access resources for jobs and education. The FCC expanded the program to include broadband last year, and now gives participating households a $9.25 per month credit they can use for internet access. As many as 13 million Americans may be eligible for Lifeline that do not have broadband service at home, the FCC has found. Roughly 900 service providers participate in the Lifeline program.
Since becoming chairman last month, Pai has made closing the digital divide a central axis of his policy agenda. Although the vast majority of Americans have access to Internet service, there remain distinct gaps in U.S. broadband penetration, particularly among seniors, minorities and the poor. In his first address to FCC staff, Pai singled out the digital divide as one of the signature issues he hoped to address.
At NetRango, we're encouraged by the Chairman's statements and hope to see the Lifeline's expansion into broadband internet continued. Whereas in the past households had to choose between telephone or internet service for their Lifeline discount, thanks to VOIP they can now get the best of both worlds.