Lifeline broadband proposal gets mixed response from state and local leaders

The FCC's proposal to realign its Lifeline service program to focus on providing low-cost broadband services is being met with objections from a number of state and local government officials.

State and local officials from New York, Maryland, Texas and Oregon said that they are concerned that the regulator's plan would force some lower-income families to choose between getting voice or broadband service.

In June, the FCC voted along party lines to update the Universal Service Fund's Lifeline program by adding broadband service to the mix and having a third party establish eligibility for the program, which is intended to provide discounted telecom services to low-income consumers. The vote was 3-2, with Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly dissenting.

The FCC proposed that it would continue to offer the Lifeline program's $9.25 monthly subsidy, giving recipients to use it for broadband or traditional voice services.

Maria del Carmen Arroyo, a Democratic member of the New York City Council, said in a letter to the FCC that broadband subsidies "should not come at the expense of traditional phone services," adding that the proposal "would not be sufficient to support broadband services" or a bundle of voice and broadband services.

According to a PC World report, a number of local politicians in New York and Baltimore echoed a similar concern that the broadband proposal "will not be effective to actually solve any communications issues."

A number of U.S. broadband providers such as CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Comcast offer low-cost broadband services. Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Internet Essentials and CenturyLink's Internet Basics programs provide up to 1.5 Mbps for $9.95 a month. CenturyLink has joined Cox in supporting President Obama's new ConnectHome initiative, a pilot program that is designed to provide broadband to low-income families in 27 cities and one tribal nation.

Taking things a step further, the Communications Workers of America union said in its own filing that the FCC should incorporate a 10/1 Mbps broadband speed standard for Lifeline recipients.

For more:
- PC World has this article

Related articles:
CWA says 10 Mbps broadband requirement should apply to Lifeline program
Senators look to close broadband gap for schools with Digital Learning Equity Act
FCC sets 10 Mbps as new rural broadband starting point
FCC's Connect America Fund II receives mixed response

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