CWA, AFL-CIO to FCC: Lifeline program must include broadband services

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) filed joint reply comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to update the Lifeline program to include broadband. 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 incomes below $25,000. But all households, including low-income households, CWA and the AFL-CIO wrote, must have access to broadband services to ensure full participation in the 21st century economy and society.

 

In their reply comments, CWA and the AFL-CIO reiterated, and cited support for, their 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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 last month. “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.

Reply Comments to FCC supporting Lifeline modernization (CWA, AFL-CIO, Sept. 30, 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)