Lee Schafer

Free Press Opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings, “A Direct Attack” on Low-Income Americans

Free Press opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings that will affect the Lifeline Program, a program that connects low-income Americans to crucial communications services. The proposed changes were released October 26th in a draft by Chairman Pai and the current FCC administration to be a part of the November 16 Open Meeting agenda and would greatly eliminate the access to service for many low-income families in the United States.

Free Press Opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings that Limit Lifeline Funds to Facilities-Based Providers

Free Press has addressed their opposition to the rulings, including their major concern with the proposal to limit funds to “facilities-based” providers, which will eliminate Lifeline resellers (also known as ETCs) from providing Lifeline service.

Free Press Policy Director, Matthew Wood, urges the FCC to reconsider, asserting that “..eliminating resale carriers [Lifeline resellers] from Lifeline would eliminate participation by providers currently serving no less than two-thirds or even three ­quarters of the current Lifeline subscriber base. Chairman Pai’s war on carriers that actually make robust use of the fund is of course a direct attack on the intended beneficiaries of the program: low-income individuals and families, all too often from traditionally under-served groups such as people of color, immigrants, veterans, and the elderly.”

Read More from Free Press on FCC Lifeline Rulings

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FreePress-Ex-Parte-Letter-to-FCC-on-Lifeline-Changes-Eliinating-Resellers-1.pdf”]

About Free Press

Free Press is an independent organization that believes that change happens when people have a real voice in the political process; they seek to mobilize their growing base of 900,000 activists to sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, attend rallies and town-hall meetings, write letters to the editor, and take part in other targeted actions. Additionally, the organization crafts policy proposals, conducts research, testifies before Congress and fights in court for policies that serve the public interest.

Support Lifeline Program or Read More on FCC Changes

NaLA appreciates contributions from Lifeline Advocates; donate now to assure the continuation of the Lifeline Program or read more on the FCC’s proposed changes.

No comments
Lee SchaferFree Press Opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings, “A Direct Attack” on Low-Income Americans
read more

Cherokee Tribal Organization ‘Stongly Opposes’ FCC Lifeline Changes

November 9 — In light of the FCC’s proposed changes to the Lifeline Program, there have been responses from several Native American Tribal Organizations, including Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation, the United States’ largest federally-recognized tribe. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief, Bill Baker wrote the FCC to express strong opposition to the proposed changes that will be up for ruling at the FCC’s November 16 Open Meeting.

FCC Proposed Changes Affecting Tribal Members

The Fourth Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Notice of Inquiry (WC Docket Number 17-287, WC Docket Number 11-42, and WC Docket Number 09-197), is an imminent threat to 35,000+ Tribal members living in Oklahoma.

Baker responds with concern for the impact these rulings will have on Tribal Members who are eligible for Tribal Lifeline Support, stating “Limiting access to the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy based on population density ignores the uniqueness of each tribal nation and expressly ignores one of the goals of the program. Cherokee Nation spans across 14 unique counties that have both extremely rural areas, as well as urban centers. Although accessibility issues may vary, affordability is a constant struggle for our tribal citizens. One of the areas targeted for elimination under this proposed rule would include Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is home to more than 37,000 Cherokee Nation citizens. Living in an area with a population over 25,000 people does not determine one’s ability to afford phone services.”

Lifeline Letter from Cherokee Nation

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Cherokee-FCC-Lifeline-Letter_11.8.17.pdf”]

About Cherokee Nation

“Cherokee Nation is the largest federally recognized Indian tribe in the United States with almost 360,000 citizens and a tribal jurisdiction that spans 7,000 square miles in northeast Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation is committed to the social and economic success of our citizens and provides services such as health care, housing, childcare, career placement and a variety of other key programs to support our most vulnerable populations.”  – Bill John Baker, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief 

Support Lifeline Program or Read More on FCC Changes

NaLA appreciates contributions; donate now to assure the continuation of the Lifeline Program or read more on the FCC’s proposed changes.

No comments
Lee SchaferCherokee Tribal Organization ‘Stongly Opposes’ FCC Lifeline Changes
read more

Tribes Request Delay of Lifeline Changes Affecting Tribal Members

November 7, 2017 — Native Public Media responds to recent proposed Lifeline Program changes that will greatly impact areas that currently receive Enhanced Lifeline Tribal Support in a letter to the FCC.  A draft of the orders explaining the proposed changes to the Lifeline Program was released on October 26th, 2017 and the proposed rulings appear on the tentative agenda for the FCC’s November 16th, 2017 Open Meeting.

Tribal Response to FCC’s Proposed Lifeline Program Changes

Loris Taylor, President and CEO of the Native Public Media, Inc., urges the FCC to delay the Lifeline Program changes, stating the changes adversely effect many of the Tribal members who have access to Lifeline service because of the Enhanced Lifeline Tribal Support (“ELTS”) program, which the rulings would seek to revise.

In the letter, Taylor asserts that “the [Federal Communications] Commission has failed to provide notice and an opportunity to comment on these foregoing major changes or to support the changes with empirical justifications.

“The ETLS subsidy was adopted by the Commission in 2000 to remedy telecommunications and economic disparities throughout Indian Country. That disparity continues. The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Support shows that Tribal lands still sorely lack access to advanced telecommunications services. The Order [WC Dkt. No. 17-287, et. al] will increase this disparity and severely undermine the overarching purpose of the ETLS program, which is to provide low-income consumers with vital communication services.”

Read the Full Response to FCC by Native Public Media

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Native-Public-Media-Lifeline-Ex-Parte.11.7.17.pdf”]

 

About Native Public Media

Native Public Media is a Hopi and Navajo Tribe-based organization that works to secure a voice for Native America among policy-making bodies and among the media democracy movement, promoting greater access and larger audiences for Native American voices.

Contact Native Public Media: [email protected]

More on FCC Changes

Read more on the FCC’s proposed changes to the Lifeline Program here.

No comments
Lee SchaferTribes Request Delay of Lifeline Changes Affecting Tribal Members
read more

Lifeline Advocates Urge FCC to Reconsider Proposed Program Changes

On October 26th, the FCC published the upcoming November 16 public meeting agenda, which calls for some significant changes to the Lifeline Program, which provides affordable communication services to low-income Americans.  Advocates of the Lifeline Program are now voicing their concerns about some of the proposed rules, which will mainly aim to:

  • Direct Lifeline Funds & Enhanced Lifeline Support to Facilities-based Providers
  • Adopt a Self-enforcing Budget Cap
  • End States’ Role in Designating ETCs
  • Redefine Tribal Lands as Rural
  • Eliminate LBP Designations

Responses to FCC Proposals for Lifeline Program

Advocates of both the Lifeline Program and the FCC’s commitment to “bridge the digital divide” have expressed concern over many of the potential changes, and are seeking FCC reconsideration.

CTIA, an organization that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry (and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem) that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life, voiced some of their concerns in a letter to Chairman Pai, yesterday:

“While CTIA remains committed to working with the Commission to strengthen the Lifeline program’s administration, some of the changes proposed in the draft Lifeline item would negatively impact millions of low-income consumers who rely on wireless supported Lifeline services. As the Commission moves forward an agenda designed to close the digital divide, CTIA urges the Commission to recognize that Lifeline, especially wireless Lifeline, remains a critical tool that enables low-income consumers to access 21st Century occupational, educational, health and public safety communications.”

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CTIA-Lifeline-FCC-NPRM-NOI-Response-Letter-11082017.pdf”]

 

Additionally, NaLA has activated a task force of highly qualified industry experts and advocates, who are working hard to ensure the continuity of the Lifeline Program. This task force is charged with handling the outreach, communication, collaboration, and education required to inform lawmakers and constituents aware of the proposed changes and what they can do to support the program and protect the Lifeline Program participants.

NaLA Member and Lifeline Advocate Support

Our members and supporters have already begun efforts to protect the low-income Americans who participate in the Lifeline Program. Access to telecommunications services provided by this program connect low-income Americans with emergency services, employment, education, childcare, and healthcare.

NaLA appreciates its members contributions to this cause; donate now to assure the continuation of the Lifeline Program or read more on the FCC’s proposed changes.

About CTIA

CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. CTIA also coordinates the industry’s voluntary efforts to provide consumers with a variety of choices and information regarding their wireless products and services. CTIA also hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and coordinates the industry’s efforts to provide consumers with a variety of choices and information regarding their wireless products and services as well as the industry’s voluntary best practices.

No comments
Lee SchaferLifeline Advocates Urge FCC to Reconsider Proposed Program Changes
read more

Colville Tribe Responds to FCC Plans for Tribal Lifeline Funds

November 7, 2017 — The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CTCR) sent a response to the FCC, regarding recent changes that will soon be decided regarding the Lifeline Program changes, specifically the proposal to limit Tribal Lifeline Funds (and eventually all Lifeline funds) to facilities-based providers.

Dr. Michael E. Marchand, Chairman of the CTCR, writes “We [the CTCR] are especially disconcerted with the FCC’s proposal to eliminate resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program. Wireless resellers offering enhanced Tribal Lifeline service generate revenue for the Tier 1 service providers that can be invested to expand wireless infrastructure on Tribal lands, a crucial need for the Colville Tribes. Wireless resellers have developed specialized business models to connect with residents of our Reservation; resellers currently provide critically-needed Lifeline service to many low-income individuals on the Colville Reservation. If these companies are no longer permitted to provide Tribal Lifeline service, it will be difficult, and in many cases impossible, for members of the Colville Tribes to obtain affordable voice and broadband services.”

View Colville Indian Reservation Letter to FCC

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Colville-Confederated-Tribes-Lifeline-Ex-Parte.11.7.17.pdf”]

About the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation is an organization that was formed in 1972 to represent the Colville Tribes, and is federally-recognized in the United States. The governing body, the Colville Business Council, state their mission for the Reservation is to “establish policies which would improve the economic condition of the Confederated Tribes, its members and posterity, with emphasis toward the most efficient and effective development, preservation, and protection of the resources available, including human and renewable natural resources, resulting in minimum negative impacts upon the culture and traditions of enrolled members of the Colville Confederated Tribes” (Source: CTCR Website)

Support Lifeline Program or Read More on FCC Changes

NaLA appreciates contributions; donate now to assure the continuation of the Lifeline Program or read more on the FCC’s proposed changes.

No comments
Lee SchaferColville Tribe Responds to FCC Plans for Tribal Lifeline Funds
read more

FCC Seeks to Impose Cap on Lifeline Program

October 26, 2017 — Washington D.C. Recent FCC proposals seek to impose caps on Lifeline Program funds.

Universal Service Funds & FCC Proposal for Cap on Lifeline Program

The rulings would seek to impose a $2 Billion cap on the Lifeline Program, whose funds are administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company and account for around 18% of the Universal Service Funds (USF), according to USAC’s 2016 Annual report. The USF also provides funding to additional programs, such as High Cost, Rural Health Care, and Schools and Libraries programs.

“The idea of a USF Lifeline cap has been a contentious one at the FCC. Democratic commissioners traditionally have opposed a cap, perhaps because a cap in the low $2 billion-range would cover only half of eligible recipients, according to government estimates,” writes Joan Engebretson, Executive Editor of Telecompetitor.

Limit Universal Service Funds for Lifeline Program to Facilities-based Providers

In addition to capping the funds to the program, these rulings seek to limit funds to facilities-based providers. Currently, most Lifeline Program participants receive service through re-sellers. This proposal will have the most impact on the continuation of Lifeline Program and its ability to effectively provide support to the low-income families to whom it provides service.

“By requiring participating carriers to be facilities-based, the proposed Lifeline item would reinstate by rule a statutory requirement from which it has granted forbearance definitively.  More importantly, the FCC’s proposed decision would force about 70% of the approximately 10 million Lifeline subscribers to find a new service provider,” states John Heitmann, of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP.

“Many of these 7 million Lifeline eligible subscribers will find that they have few, if any choices – forcing them to pay more for less, purchase a new phone, or lose service.  Nearly all affected Lifeline subscribers would be forced to find alternative service offerings for the no-cost to consumer services they typically have access to today. No wireline service provider offers no-cost to consumer Lifeline services.  With no competition from wireless resellers, Lifeline service offerings are likely to stagnate, become more costly and lack in innovation.   Wireless – and wireless ETCs – lose under the FCC’s proposal.  But the biggest losers will be Lifeline-eligible,  low-income consumers across rural America and especially those in urban America.  The FCC’s proposal for Lifeline is so skewed and disruptive that it is almost certain to threaten the very fabric of bipartisan support that has underpinned the Universal Service Fund for decades.”

No comments
Lee SchaferFCC Seeks to Impose Cap on Lifeline Program
read more

FCC Proposed Lifeline Changes Affect Tribal Areas

The proposed FCC changes to Tribal Lifeline were outlined by Chairman Pai in a recent release of the November 16 Public Meeting Agenda. The Agenda outlines the Chairman’s intentions for the Enhanced Tribal Funds that support bridging the digital divide on the Tribal lands in Oklahoma and Nevada.

FCC Proposes Limitations on Tribal Land Subsidies in Oklahoma and Nevada

The reduction of waste, fraud, and abuse of within the Lifeline program has been a frequent topic of discussion for the FCC under Chairman Pai. The announcement of a proposal for ‘serious reform’ of the program is focused on the limitation of the additional Tribal subsidies that still exist in states like Oklahoma and Nevada. These FCC changes to Tribal Lifeline will negatively impact low-income residents living in tribal areas.

Initially a program for increasing communications for rural, low-income Americans, the Lifeline Program has evolved to better assist under-served Americans. As seen by the FCC’s efforts to include broadband in the minimum service standard, it is increasingly realized that efforts to “bridge” the digital divide is no longer solely a matter of geography.

Reason for FCC Changes to Tribal Lifeline

Currently, designated Tribal Lands receive additional federal subsidies for bridging that digital divide. But even though the minimum standards of service continue to increase to build that bridge, he subsidy for non-tribal areas has remained unchanged at $9.25, while the subsidy for Tribal Lands has been reduced in some areas through revocation of the previous “Tribal” designation.

In a report released last June revealing the findings of a three-year investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified areas of fraud, waste, and abuse within the program, and recommendations were given to the FCC to increase Federal safeguards. The GAO’s report did not identify the subsidies to Tribal areas as a source of concern for waste within the Program, however, initiatives such as the National Verifier and other various reform implementations have already begun or taken place, which address and improve many of the issues revealed but the GAO’s findings. In response to the report, Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, added that “much of GAO’s investigation took place before the FCC adopted its latest reforms.”

The Lifeline Program has experienced much-needed reform in recent years to combat issues of waste, fraud, and abuse within the Lifeline Program; to this, Pallone pointed out that “As an Energy & Commerce Democratic Staff Report found last year, the FCC has already reined in a billion dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse that was allowed under Bush-era changes to the program.”

The FCC has been diligent to address issues within the Lifeline Program that compromise its integrity. There is some speculation Pai’s proposal regarding Tribal subsidies.

Opposition to Pai’s Proposal for FCC Changes to Tribal Lifeline

The opposition to Pai’s proposal are concerned about the removal of the added subsidies for Tribal Americans.

Pallone expressed his concern over the FCC proposed Lifeline changes from the current Chairman that will negatively affect those living on Tribal lands, adding that “Struggling families across the country depend on this program, this proposal would rip the phones from their hands […] This is another unfortunate example of the FCC trying to avoid congressional oversight when it chooses to act against the people it is sworn to help.”

Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss of The Benton Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting communication in the public interest, added comment in a statement about the proposal, that “Pai is gutting the only Universal Service Fund program that directly benefits consumers instead of carriers. His changes will mean fewer low-income households are served by fewer competitive options.

“At the very least, we hope that the FCC will take the time to do an economic analysis around the impact of the FCC changes to Tribal Lifeline. Many, many Lifeline recipients are U.S. veterans who fought for our flag. Chairman Pai appears to be waiving the white flag of surrender for their connected future.”

No comments
Lee SchaferFCC Proposed Lifeline Changes Affect Tribal Areas
read more