The FCC, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) have designated September 9-15 as “National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week.” The week was marked by statements by a variety of officials. The FCC’s Acting Chairwoman, Mignon Clyburn, issued a statement noting the importance of Lifeline for low-income consumers and reiterated the agency’s commitment to “providing affordable access to broadband”:
Most of us take for granted that we can call 911 in a crisis and reach family, friends and employers when necessary. But for many low-income Americans, this basic necessity -- phone service – remains a luxury few can afford. Ensuring access to communications for all Americans, regardless of income, is why Lifeline was launched in 1985 during the Reagan Administration, and why this commitment was codified by Congress in 1996. And that’s why the FCC has modernized and reformed Lifeline for today’s world of mobile communications while looking forward to the next challenge: providing affordable access to broadband. Lifeline Awareness Week is a time for us to appreciate what a lifeline the program has been for the neediest Americans – and to share our vision of a lifeline to jobs, education, health and opportunity through affordable broadband access for all.
Chairwoman Clyburn also attended an event co-hosted by the New America Foundation, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, The National Consumer Law Center, and the Media Action Grassroots Network held this morning. In her remarks, she dispelled common misconceptions about the Lifeline program, including the misconception that the program subsidizes wireless handsets. In fact, the Lifeline program only supports service fees; if a cell phone is provided at no charge, it is the carrier that subsidizes the handset at its own expense.
At the state level, NARUC issued a statement expressing support for Lifeline Awareness Week in which it stressed the “value and importance” of the Lifeline program and noted how the program “connects qualified individuals with family, friends, potential employers, and lifesaving emergency services.” NARUC also established a Lifeline Awareness Week webpage.
In Congress, Rep. Doris Matsui of California, a long-time Lifeline supporter, introduced House Resolution 340 in the U.S. House of Representatives, which resolved that:
- the national interest of the United States is served by further outreach, education, and participation in the Lifeline program by eligible low-income consumers;
- the FCC should be commended for efforts to improve the Lifeline program’s efficiency and addressing waste, fraud, and abuse in the program to ensure that vital Federal resources are only going to those who are truly eligible;
- the Lifeline program provides a valuable service to low-income consumers in the United States;
- the Lifeline program should be modernized to allow eligible low-income consumers to access affordable telephone or broadband services;
- the FCC, NARUC, and NASUCA are to be commended for their initiative in creating ‘National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week’ to promote Lifeline subscribership; and
- Congress supports such initiative across the Nation.