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Lifeline Law Advisor Insight & Commentary on Lifeline Program Compliance & Regulatory Issues

Bill Would Create Lifeline Program Aimed at Broadband Support

Alan Galloway Posted in Congress

On April 23, 2013 House Representative Matsui of California, along with other members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced “The Broadband Adoption Act of 2013.”  The bill, if enacted, would direct the FCC to establish Lifeline support for broadband services for low-income customers, modeled after the existing Lifeline program.  “The Lifeline program provides a tangible service to lower-income Americans and it is imperative that the Lifeline program be reformed and modernized to account for broadband services,” Representative Matsui stated in a press release.  “We must ensure lower-income Americans have a greater opportunity to participate in the digital economy, whether it be for workforce training, education, finding a job or creating the next big idea.”  Matsui’s press release cites FCC estimates suggesting that low-income Americans lag behind in broadband adoption, with nearly 100 million Americans lacking home broadband.

Under the bill, the new program would incorporate lessons from the FCC’s Low Income Broadband Pilot Program.  The FCC would determine support amounts by studying the prevailing market price and speed of broadband service.  The bill also requires that the program be “neutral as to the types of technology used to provide voice telephony or broadband service,” and would allow the FCC to authorize providers other than ETCs to participate in the program.  Finally, the bill would also require that the FCC implement accountability measures to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, including preventing households from receiving duplicative broadband support.