CWA, AFL-CIO: Modernize Lifeline to include broadband

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) filed joint comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to update the Lifeline program to include broadband. Modernizing the program, they wrote, would promote “the affordability of broadband services for low-income families.”

CWA and the AFL-CIO made specific recommendations for the Lifeline program:

  • Set minimum speed and service requirements for carriers consistent with other universal service programs. The 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream standard for Connect America also should be provided to Lifeline customers.

  • Provide reimbursement to Lifeline customers for up-front connection charges, in addition to the monthly subsidy. The Commission also should monitor the cost and availability of broadband products and consider some reimbursement toward equipment purchases.

  • Establish a national eligibility verification system that enables Lifeline participants to efficiently and easily change carriers if a better service is available.

  • Promote the service to more lower-income families to achieve as full participation rates as possible. CWA strongly opposes a cap to financing of Lifeline services.

“High-speed broadband service is as essential to modern life today as telephone service was in the last century,” CWA President Chris Shelton said in a statement. “The Lifeline program must be updated to break through the digital divide and acknowledge the fundamental reality that Internet access is ‘truly a lifeline to the outside world.’”

Speed Matters, along with civil rights, labor, and consumer groups, have long supported expanding the Lifeline program to include broadband. The FCC’s Lifeline program currently provides subsidies to low-income people for voice service and Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to update the program to include high-speed Internet is an important step toward fulfilling the Commission’s century-old commitment to universal communications access.

Comments to FCC supporting Lifeline modernization (CWA, AFL-CIO Aug. 31, 2015)

CWA: Expanding Lifeline Program Will Help Close Digital Divide (CWA, Aug. 31, 2015)

Expand Lifeline to include broadband (Speed Matters, Mar. 16, 2015)

FCC: Lifeline to include broadband (FCC, May 30, 2015)