Verizon should expand Lifeline broadband beyond FiOS territory, says National Hispanic Media Coalition

Broadband photo
The National Hispanic Media Coalition wants Verizon to offer Lifeline-enabled broadband throughout its entire footprint, not just where it offers FiOS.

Verizon plans to offer Lifeline-supported broadband services where it offers FiOS service today, but the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) says the telco’s efforts don’t go far enough.

The NHMC says Verizon should offer Lifeline-enabled broadband throughout its entire footprint.

“While this is a good first step, NHMC believes Verizon must better serve its low-income customers by expanding its Lifeline broadband service to its entire broadband footprint and not only where it offers FiOS,” said the NHMC in a statement

In a filing (PDF) Verizon issued earlier this month, the telco said it plans to offer Lifeline-based broadband in FiOS areas starting in the middle of next year to address the broadband “affordability challenge.”

“We hope that providing qualifying low-income Americans with the choice to use their Lifeline benefit for our eligible broadband Internet access services will help address this affordability challenge and will be another useful step towards closing the remaining digital divide,” Verizon said in its filing.

Verizon said that the telco is “still in the process of making the necessary system changes to support our participation in this program and to ensure compliance [with] the Commission’s rules.”

However, the issue is that Verizon, along with other large telcos and cable MSOs AT&T and Charter, sought forbearance of Lifeline broadband Internet access service (BIAS) requirements.

The FCC order allowed existing Lifeline providers to exempt themselves from the broadband obligation through forbearance—a tool that numerous carriers are now employing to sidestep responsibility to low-income customers.

In all, 80 service providers filed for forbearance from having to take part in the FCC’s broadband Lifeline program.

Earlier this month, NHMC and four other diverse public interest groups spoke out against AT&T’s move to file a forbearance request a few hours before the Thanksgiving holiday. The groups said AT&T’s decision would confine their extension of Lifeline broadband to very limited regions of its service territory.   

RELATED: AT&T takes heat for opting out of Lifeline broadband program

AT&T said in a blog post that while the Lifeline broadband requirements for service providers are now taking effect, the National Eligibility Verifier will not be fully implemented until 2019. What this means is that service providers will have to abide by the same administrative and compliance issues as before the reforms were enacted.