Attacks on Lifeline defeated in Congress

A coalition of labor, civil rights, and public interest groups defeated a multi-pronged attack by some in Congress to gut the FCC’s recent move to expand its Lifeline low-income subsidy program to support broadband. A full 47 percent of low-income families don’t subscribe to broadband because they can’t afford it. The Lifeline for broadband program is designed to ensure that every American can afford Internet access.

But some in Congress want to keep low-income households on the wrong side of the digital divide. Tactic one: prohibit customers from using their Lifeline subsidy for wireless Internet connections.(add link). Many low-income households and people of color rely on their wireless devices to connect to the Internet. Representative Austin Scott (R-GA)’s wireless exclusion bill was soundly defeated this week by a vote of 207-143 in the House of Representatives.

Tactic two: put a cap on the size of the program, limiting the number of poor families that can get the modest $9.25 monthly subsidy. That proposal -- initially proposed as a rider to an appropriations bill -- was pulled in response to lobbying by public interest and labor advocates.

The Communications Workers of America, among others, came out strongly against the attacks on Lifeline. “Lifeline is an essential program that helps ensure low-income consumers can afford critical communications services, including access to the Internet,” CWA Legislative Director said in a letter to Scott’s colleagues in the House.  “I urge you to oppose HR 5525 and other arbitrary efforts to limit the Lifeline program.”

“It is essential to ensure that people of color, low-income people, and other vulnerable populations have access to broadband,” wrote The Leadership Conference, a civil rights coalition of more than 200 members. “Without Internet access, students of color cannot do their homework, working single mothers cannot earn degrees online at night, and seniors and people with disabilities cannot utilize the most modern and accessible health care.”

In addition, the Lifeline Coalition, comprised of almost 40 diverse organizations, also sent a letter opposing the legislative attacks: “We oppose these and other attacks on Lifeline because they threaten to: deny children the tools to improve their chances to get a good education; compromise individual and public safety; prevent families from escaping the cycle of poverty; and harm the nation’s economy.”

The attack on Lifeline is not over. Like us if you agree that we must do everything we can to protect this vital program.

 

Links:

GOP Fails to Sabotage FCC Lifeline Broadband Aid For the Poor. For Now. (Motherboard, June 22, 2016)

Cellphone subsidies block fails in House (The Hill, June 21, 2016)

House Defeats Bill to Kill Lifeline Subsidies (Wireless Week, June 22, 2016)

Support Lifeline; Oppose H.R. 5525, The End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016 (The Leadership Conference, June 20, 2016)