This morning, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn spoke at the Schools, Health & Library Broadband (SHLB) Coalition’s fifth annual conference, where she laid out her thoughts on how to address the challenge of the “homework gap” and digital divide.  Commissioner Clyburn touted the recent two-part reform of E-rate and reiterated that in the coming funding year, the FCC will approve all Category 1 (broadband) and Category 2 (internal connections) funding requests.

Turning to Lifeline, Commissioner Clyburn repeated her belief that the new E-rate program provides only two legs of the “three-legged stool, where all of the pieces need to be present for success:  broadband in school, broadband in the library, and broadband at home.

Noting that Lifeline “has not fundamentally changed since its creation in 1985,” Commissioner Clyburn argued that broadband should be added the program’s supported services, and appeared to posit that both voice and broadband could be covered by the current monthly support amount of $9.25 per household (see  accompanying slides to her presentation).

Commissioner Clyburn then reiterated the five principles for further Lifeline reform she first outlined in November 2014:

  • Minimum service standards
  • Shifting eligibility determination away from service providers
  • Eliminating barriers that discourage provider participation (hinting that the ETC designation process should be streamlined for Lifeline)
  • Using established databases to assist in eligibility determination and administration
  • Encouraging public-private partnerships to increase adoption

Finally, Commissioner Clyburn cited a Pew study showing that financial burdens prevent many low income Americans from maintaining Internet service on their smartphones.