Menu
FCC proposal would extend Lifeline voice subsidy to broadband

FCC proposal would extend Lifeline voice subsidy to broadband

The so-called Obamaphone program would give poor people more options under a new proposal

U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Tom Wheeler to be chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Tom Wheeler to be chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider including broadband within a controversial program that subsidizes telephone or mobile service for poor people.

Recipients of the FCC's Lifeline program, which provides a US$9.25 monthly subsidy for voice service, could use that money to purchase broadband service instead under a proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Eligible households would continue to receive one $9.25 monthly subsidy, and they could choose whether to apply the money to traditional telephone service, mobile service or broadband, FCC officials said Thursday.

Conservative critics of Lifeline call the program Obamaphone, and they portray it as an attempt to give poor people free mobile phones in exchange for votes for President Barack Obama in past presidential elections. A single YouTube video from the 2012 election season drove part of the misconception about the program.

In some cases, the subsidy is enough to cover the cost of an inexpensive mobile phone and monthly service. But the program predates Obama's arrival in Washington, D.C., by nearly two decades. The original program was established in 1985 during the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan. Lawmakers tied its funding to the FCC's Universal Service Fund in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, eight years before Obama was elected as a U.S. senator.

Calling broadband an essential service, FCC officials said Wheeler's proposal would "reboot" the Lifeline program. The FCC, in 2012, passed new rules intended to deal with fraud and abuse in the program. About 48 percent of U.S. households making less than $25,000 a year have broadband service, while 95 percent of households making more than $150,000 do, the FCC said.

Under Wheeler's proposal, the FCC would establish minimum service standards for both voice and broadband covered by the subsidy, and the agency would seek public comments about those service levels.

In addition, Wheeler would establish an new independent administrator to determine eligibility for Lifeline benefits. Now, telecom carriers determine who is eligible for the program, and critics have complained that the current setup invites waste and fraud.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentbroadbandregulationtelecommunicationBarack Obama4gU.S. Federal Communications CommissionTom Wheeler

Featured

Slideshows

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA

Reseller News has honoured the leading female front runners of the New Zealand ICT industry at the 2019 Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) in Auckland. The awards recognised standout individuals across six categories, spanning Entrepreneur, Rising Star, Shining Star, Community, Technical and Achievement. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA
Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

The 2019 Reseller News Innovation Awards has kicked off with the Judges Lunch in Auckland with 70 judges in the voting panel. The awards will reflect the changing dynamics of the channel, recognising excellence across customer value and innovation - spanning start-ups, partners, distributors and vendors. Photos by Christine Wong.

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch
Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2018 inductees - Chris Simpson, Kendra Ross and Phill Patton - to the third running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing landscape of the technology industry in New Zealand, while outlining ways to attract a new breed of players to the ecosystem. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments