Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Access to High Tech Tools Needed for Economic Security

Today UCC OC Inc. is pleased to join two important expressions of support for the Obama Administration's proposal to modernize an existing program in order to provide financial support to low-income households who cannot afford broadband Internet service. UCC OC Inc. collaborated with many colleagues representing the civil rights community in preparation of the comments submitted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The comments explained the long-standing civil rights community support of this program, called Lifeline, and the need to update it by the end of this year. While 92 percent of households with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 have broadband service, the adoption rate is only 47 percent for households with income below $25,000 and marked disparities continue for other groups, such as people of color, people with disabilities, seniors and others.

 

Cheryl Leanza, UCC OC Inc.'s policy advisor, explained, "Internet access is so ubiquitous that many of us have to explain to our children how we managed without the Internet in the 'old days,' but unfortunately almost one-third of the U.S. population knows only too well what life without the Internet is like. The Lifeline program must be retooled for the 21st Century." The Leadership Conference comments reiterated support for the broadly-supported June Lifeline Principles, which call for a program design that ensures universality; excellence; choice and competition; innovation; and efficiency, transparency, and accountability. The comments outlined support for various aspects of the proposed modernization which will ensure that low-income people are able to use the program to obtain the highest quality services possible, take further steps to eliminate fraud, and adopt administrative reforms that will encourage broad corporate participation in the public-private program.

 

Specifically, the Leadership Conference comments suggested the FCC:

 
  • Adopt a functional standard for services eligible for Lifeline that would allow households to complete a variety of important online activities online, while also establishing a clear demarcation of products that are of such low quality as to be undeserving of universal service support;
  • Incentivize providers to offer the best services to consumers, possibly by offering more Lifeline support for higher-quality services and less for lower-quality services;
  • Utilize market and Lifeline data to monitor utilization of the program;
  • Continue vital support for mobile and voice-only services;
  • Implement a centralized third-party eligibility verification system in phases, in a manner that will facilitate portability and consumer choice without negatively impacting Lifeline participants;
  • Adopt participation as a goal for Lifeline and reject proposals that would inhibit it, such as proposals that would result in waiting lists, loss of participant support mid-stream, or mandatory minimum payments;
  • Create incentive grants to facilitate Lifeline reliance on state databases.
 

In addition, UCC OC Inc. joined with many of the organizations representing low-income consumers signing on to a more detailed filing authored primarily by the National Consumer Law Center.   The more detailed comments lay out how low-income people can best be served by the national Lifeline program.

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