For ten years, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has advocated reform of the Lifeline low-income subsidy program to support broadband as part of CWA’s Speed Matters campaign. Victory may finally be on the horizon, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to take action on the issue this spring.
This week, CWA President Chris Shelton reaffirmed CWA’s strong support for modernizing the Lifeline program to include broadband in a letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler. The Lifeline program currently provides subsidies to low-income people for voice service. Wheeler’s proposal to update the program to include high-speed Internet is an important step toward providing all households with access to modern communications services.
“The Communications Workers of America (CWA) strongly supports the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to update the Lifeline program to include broadband,” President Shelton wrote in the letter. “The FCC has a responsibility to help low-income households overcome the economic barriers to modern telecommunications services to promote the full social and economic participation of all Americans.”
The letter made specific recommendations, urging the FCC to:
set minimum speed and service standards consistent with other universal service programs; establish a centralized national eligibility verification system that enables Lifeline participants to easily and efficiently change carriers; and provide reimbursement to Lifeline customers for up-front connection charges in addition to the monthly subsidy. Above all, the Commission must oppose a program spending cap and encourage the full participation of eligible households.
Last week 80 House Democrats sent a letter to support to the FCC and before that the Commission’s proposal received support from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, 44 mayors and city leaders, as well as a broad range of civil rights, consumer, and education groups, including CWA.
CWA represents 700,000 workers in communications, media, airlines, public service, and manufacturing.
Letter of support for Lifeline modernization (CWA, Feb. 12, 2015)
Letter of support for Lifeline broadband subsidies (US House of Representatives, Feb. 12, 2016)
State, local, tribal governments advisory committee supports Lifeline modernization (Speed Matters, Nov. 29, 2015)
44 mayors, city leaders urge FCC to modernize Lifeline for broadband (Speed Matters, Dec. 10, 2015)
Broad range of groups support Lifeline for broadband (Speed Matters, Sept. 4, 2015)