Lifeline for broadband will help close the digital divide

Jessica Gonzalez, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, refutes a Wall Street Journal editorial that claimed the Lifeline program is unnecessary. In two short paragraphs, she shows why support for access to modern communications services is in fact a necessity. Read it here:

Your July 11 editorial “Who Needs an ObamaPhone?” wrongly suggests that Lifeline, which provides a modest subsidy to families struggling to afford basic communications services, may be unnecessary. Subsidy or not, it is clearly reasonable for poor families to prioritize access to communications so that they may call 911 in an emergency, communicate with employers, contact a child’s school or interact with health-care professionals. For many, paying a phone bill means other needs will go unmet. In millions of American homes, Lifeline allows families to avoid the tough choice between staying connected or keeping roofs above heads, food on plates and clothes on backs.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates a family of three (two parents, one child) in Hickman County, Tenn., in Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s district, needs to earn $48,000 a year to cover housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, taxes and other necessities—and attain “a secure yet modest” standard of living. However, a family living at 135% of the federal poverty guideline, and therefore eligible for Lifeline, earns about $27,000 per year—almost half of what it actually needs to cover critical expenses. It’s no wonder that 320,000 families in Tennessee utilize Lifeline.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to move forward with the process of updating the Lifeline program to include high-speed Internet. As communications technology evolves, so too must the FCC’s commitment to the spirit of the Lifeline program – to make modern communications services available to low-income Americans. Comments on the Lifeline update are due to the FCC by August 17.

For the Poor, Lifeline Prevents Dire Choices (Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2015)

CWA praises FCC for moving Lifeline update forward (Speed Matters, June 21, 2015)

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