Last July we made a bold prediction in an article headlined: “A BOLD PREDICTION: Lifeline Broadband will be here by the end of 2014”.
Well, in retrospect our prediction was a bit too bold, because 2014 came and went, but Lifeline Broadband remained as elusive as ever.
But now it appears that the Federal Communications Commission is finally on the verge of overhauling the Lifeline Assistance program, and it is widely anticipated that one of the biggest changes will be to include Lifeline Broadband (in one form or another). Lifeline has not seen any major revisions since back in 2012, so any new tweaks based on consumer need will indeed be welcome.
Lifeline Broadband would be tremendous news for the millions of low-income Americans who simply cannot afford any of current high-priced internet services available, and equally important, cannot afford to fall into the Digital Divide the separates America’s rich from its poor.
What makes us so confident that Lifeline Broadband is about to spring to life? Consider the evidence gathered by LifelineLaw.com:
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been signaling for months that she views the funding of broadband as an important goal for the program, including at a speech this past Monday at an NTCA event.
FCC staff have also asked for input from companies that participated in the FCC’s Lifeline broadband pilot program, which analyzed possible service packages and subsidy levels.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel released a statement on Monday citing a recent Pew Research Center report that found that “Low-income households—and especially black and Hispanic ones—make up a disproportionate share” of the 5 million household in the United States with school-age children that lack broadband Internet access.
Commissioner Rosenworcel noted that “7 out of 10 teachers assign homework that requires Internet access.”
What will Lifeline Broadband look like? Will it be free for all low-income Americans like its first cousin, the free government cell phone program? Or will it be offered at a low, affordable price like its second cousins, Comcast’s Internet Essentials and CenturyLink’s Internet Basics?
We stand by some of the predictions made in that July 2014 article. Specifically, we believe:
Unlike the free government cell phone program, Lifeline Internet will probably cost low-income consumers $9.95 per month. We also believe that qualifications for the program will include participation in the same type of assistance programs required by the free government cell phone program.
Specifically, that includes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP), Medicaid, National School Free Lunch Program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8), Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and an assortment of state assistance programs; or household income at or below 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines (150% in a few states).
Was our earlier prediction wrong? Absolutely not. Was it overly optimistic? Absolutely.
We simply made the mistake of relying on the federal government to complete and analyze its pilot programs on a reasonable schedule.
Having confidence in the federal government is one mistake we won’t make again.
h/t: Lifeline Law