WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Nov. 16 voted in favor of a proposal that would dramatically cut the Lifeline program, a program that provides a discounted rate for low-income individuals to access phone and Internet services.
The proposal is favored by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the vote was along party lines.
Critics say that for low-income people and people of color, cuts to the Lifeline program mean communities and families who rely on the program will lose access to basic communications services needed in modern society, such as the ability to access educational tools and to search for employment.
“Lifeline remains the only federal program dedicated to making critical communications services more affordable for millions of low-income Americans,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “With AAPIs being one of the fastest-growing populations, and with several sectors of the community in poverty, our government has an imperative to ensure that these struggling communities retain their access to broadband. Asian Americans need online access to be a part of and participate in the national community. The commission’s disappointing vote today puts that access at risk.”
“Broadband is necessary for social and educational mobility, and the Lifeline program is key to bridging the digital divide,” said Ken Lee, CEO of OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates. “It is highly disappointing that the chairman’s office is moving forward a proposal that will strip broadband from millions of Americans without a clear plan to ensure these families can stay connected. Despite what the data may say, we know that many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders lack access due to lack of income or education. This program is the only government program that provides low-income households access to modern communications.
“If the FCC is truly committed to ensuring access to all Americans, they must reject in whole the proposal before them. We support the Lifeline program and remain dedicated to improving it, rather than creating barriers to entry for both participants and companies interested in offering the program.”
“Of the issues before this country, affordable access to broadband is one of the few that has widespread bipartisan support,” said Floyd Mori, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. “As such, the Federal Communications Commission has a responsibility to the American public to make sure that modern communication methods are accessible and affordable. The Lifeline program is a critical part of ensuring that all Americans have that access. Any attempts by the commission to weaken the program or place permanent, individual limitations on the program is contrary to the will of the people and the congressional will cultivate a fully connected country.”
“Segments of our country already experience inadequate access to broadband and even basic communications that is essential to carrying out many of the basic functions of daily life,” said David Inoue, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League. “Lifeline is one proven tool for reducing this gap and today’s actions by the Commission will severely impact this important program. The Lifeline program is a minimal investment to maintain access equity to modern communications technology that benefits all Americans.”