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MODERNIZING LIFELINE: FCC to Consider Proposal to Expand Broadband Access to Low-Income Families

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“Internet access has become a prerequisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefitting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history,” wrote Wheeler and Clyburn in an FCC blog post.

On March 8, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn unveiled a proposal to modernize the FCC’s Lifeline program to include access to broadband for low-income families. Currently, Lifeline provides a discount on monthly telephone service to eligible low-income households, but it does not support broadband access. The FCC will vote on the proposal during its March 31 meeting.

“Internet access has become a prerequisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefitting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history,” wrote Wheeler and Clyburn in an FCC blog post.

Lifeline reduces the rate for landline or wireless telephone service for eligible subscribers by $9.25 per month. Wheeler and Clyburn’s proposal would add broadband to that list and set minimum service standards for voice and broadband. It would also make it easier for broadband providers to participate in the program and create an independent third party to verify eligibility.

Wheeler and Clyburn write that their proposal will allow Lifeline subscribers to “take full advantage of the many benefits reliable internet access can bring—from jobs to education to healthcare,” while ensuring that individuals participating in the program “won’t be paying for second-rate service.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education strongly supports the FCC’s efforts to modernize Lifeline because of its potential to expand learning opportunities for students. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, more than 5 million American households with school-age children between the ages of six and seventeen do not have access to high-speed internet at home. A disproportionate share of those 5 million households are comprised of low-income African American and Latino families.

To show your support for providing students with internet access at home, sign the Alliance’s petition to the FCC at https://all4ed.org/lifeline/.

More information on Wheeler and Clyburn’s proposal is available at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0314/DOC-338113A1.pdf.

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