All posts tagged: Ajit Pai

Minimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity

FCC Releases Statement on Plans for December 2020 Minimum Service Standard Increase

Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement regarding changes to minimum service standards within the Lifeline program. “Starting Dec. 1, Lifeline’s mobile carriers will have to offer 4.5 GB of data each month, up from 3 GB,” Chairman Pai stated. The increase in monthly data stems from the recent COVID-19 pandemic, making access to viable service more significant than ever. 

Proposed Minimum Service Standard Increase Will Impact Consumer Access to Wireless Services

This new proposal has caused a great deal of controversy among organizations that strive to assist low-income customers with wireless, wireline, and broadband service through the Lifeline Program. The problem here lies with the fact that the program runs on a subsidy amount of $9.25 each month to help aid its customers. “Plans including that much data cost $25 to $40 per month,” said lawyer John J. Heitmann, who represents the National Lifeline Association (NaLA). 

Many nonprofit organizations are facing this exact same issue right now trying to balance the consumers’ need for more internet access with the available funding. Heitmann also stated,

“There is simply no evidence in the docket to suggest that a 50% increase in the required mobile broadband data – with no corresponding increase in subsidy support – can be provided without forcing a copay on consumers.” 

In August, NaLA conducted a survey of 7,706 Lifeline subscribers asking whether they could afford a copay to remain connected to the service. The results showed that 85% of the subscribers said they could not afford a copay, and one in 10 of the customers also reported they are currently unemployed.

Digital Divide at Risk of Widening due to Proposed FCC Changes

The issue now remains with how Lifeline and other organizations that also assist low-income consumers will continue to provide the best possible service with a lack of government funding. The inability to provide reliable, affordable service poses a bigger issue in regard to the digital divide. In an interview with the Herald-Tribune Heitmann stated,

“There are two aspects of the digital divide. One is where there aren’t any high-speed networks. The other is where we have high-speed networks but people just can’t afford the services over them. And it’s the latter problem that’s the bigger problem in the United States. And it’s been made bigger by COVID.”

For years these organizations have strived to meet consumers’ needs. With these new challenges arising due to COVID-19, Lifeline and these other organizations could be facing a major financial crisis down the line with the lack of proper funding.

For more information, visit https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/local/2020/09/28/fccs-lifeline-program-free-phone-and-internet-confronts-crisis/5762068002/

 

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Lee SchaferMinimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity
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Mignon Clyburn, Digital Divide is Widening for Low Income Americans

On March 20th, 2018, at the New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn spoke about the digital divide and the need for every American, regardless of economic status, to have access to affordable high-speed internet. She talked about digital redlining, the Lifeline Program, the effects of not allowing consumer privacy for public usage, and net neutrality.

Clyburn on FCC Chairman Pai’s Vision for the Lifeline Program

Broadband internet access is important service to everyone, not just high and middle income families. As healthcare, employment, education, and government services are migrating online, the Lifeline Program becomes even more essential to low-income families. During the session, Clyburn expressed concern with the direction FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has taken with revoking the providers’ authorizations to provide service without notice, establishing caps on Lifeline, and banning wireless resellers from participating in the Lifeline program.

Digital Redlining of Low Income Americans

Unfortunately, because the largest internet providers mainly focus their attention and investments in high income urban, suburban, and middle-income neighborhoods, low-income and poverty-stricken areas are often left out from initiatives to grow and connect. Cyburn cites research revealing that “over 24 million people in the U.S. are without affordable, high-speed internet.” She continues, stating that, “according to the Pew Research Center, only 54% of African Americans and 50% of Latinos, subscribe to a home broadband service, compared to 72% of White Americans. When I look at these numbers, I can’t help but wonder if what we are seeing is in fact, another form of redlining: digital redlining.

Closing the Digital Divide in Lifeline

In opposition to the FCC efforts that damage the effectivity of the Lifeline Program on closing the digital divide, large telecom companies like Sprint and Verizon have voiced their concerns. The role that Lifeline plays in closing the digital divide is weakened by the changes that have been proposed for the Program in recent months. Commissioner Clyburn echoed these concerns and is aware of the importance of striving for digital equity, concluding that “The goal is, and should be, equal and affordable access.”

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admin1Mignon Clyburn, Digital Divide is Widening for Low Income Americans
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Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes

On Wednesday, March 21st Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes in a letter to FCC to Chairman, Ajit Pai, encouraging him to protect the Lifeline Program.

Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes After a Recent Committee Vote

Congresswomen Anna G. Eshoo and Yvette D. Clarke composed a letter following a recent meeting where the FCC voted 3 to 2 on party lines to proceed with a new proposal that will make it harder for eligible households to attain Lifeline’s services. The FCC’s plan includes establishing caps on the Lifeline program, requiring co-pays from participants, and negating 4 out of 5 of the current providers of Lifeline services. The letter encourages the Chairman to protect the Lifeline program, because without it, Americans who participate in the program will not be able to do things like schedule medical appointments, help their children complete their homework, keep in contact with the government, or keep in touch with their family. “The program helps Americans-including disproportionate numbers of veterans and people of color-help themselves.”

Congresswomen Suggest National Verifier as an Alternative Solution to Proposed Lifeline Changes

Eshoo and Clarke expressed in their letter that they understand the Chairman is aiming to restrain fraud and abuse, “experts have repeatedly testified that the sorts of measures you are proposing do not have a successful track record.” Instead, the two give another solution to the Chairman’s concerns of fraud and abuse, which is rolling out the National Verifier. In the letter they share that, “The Government Accountability Office has testified that the National Verifier will resolve most issues that may remain with the program without the same brutal side effects” as removing almost 8 million participants from the program.

The congresswomen were not alone in their opposition to recent FCC changes to Lifeline. The letter opposing FCC changes to Lifeline was signed by 60 House members, who all concluded that the proposal is “untimely, counterproductive, and undermines [their] shared goal of connecting everyone.”

 

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admin1Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes
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Ajit Pai Loses Support in Attempt to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers

FCC Chairman Pai’s proposal to eliminate Lifeline wireless resellers has faced opposition by large broadband companies, including Verizon and Sprint.

On Proposed Rulings to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers

In response to Chairman Pai’s proposal, large carriers like Sprint and Verizon opposed the proposal to eliminate Lifeline wireless resellers, saying that the proposal goes against the purpose of the Lifeline program, “which is to address affordability.”

Verizon added that “the proposed exclusion of resellers from the Lifeline program would be highly disruptive to existing Lifeline beneficiaries and is at odds with the Commission’s goal of supporting affordable voice telephony and high-speed broadband for low-income households.”

Opposition to FCC’s Attempt to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers

Sprint told the FCC that resellers are important in providing affordable service for low-income consumers. “The goal of ensuring that all Americans have reasonable and affordable access to advanced communications services can effectively be achieved by making federal Lifeline support available for broadband and voice Lifeline services generally, whether provided by a facilities-based carrier, or by a reseller.”

Critics of the reseller ban say that Pai’s proposal shows that the FCC’s concern is not the consumer, but for digital divide.

“In attempt to further FCC majority’s carriers first agenda, basic rules protect consumers during tech transitions are thrown out the door. When it comes to helping low-income Americans, FCC majority gets a failing grade,” Mignon Clyburn, commissioner of the FCC tweeted, but subsequently deleted. She also tweeted that the FCC is “focused on taking affordable phone and broadband service away from low-income Americans. 

The conversation about the reseller ban is intense, but the FCC has not finalized Pai’s proposal.The deadline for filing initial comments on the plan passed on February 21, and the deadline for reply comments is March 23. If Pai follows through on the plan after the comment period, the full commission would vote on it.

 

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admin1Ajit Pai Loses Support in Attempt to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers
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NaLA to NARUC, on Resolution in Support of Wireless Resellers

NaLA released a press release earlier this week, thanking the NARUC on their resolution in support of reseller participation in the Lifeline Program. The resolution was in response to several FCC initiates that threaten to remove wireless resellers from providing Lifeline service to low-income American families in need of essential communication services.

The consumer committee endorsed the draft to urge the FCC to continue to allow non-facilities-based Lifeline providers to continue to receive low-income telecom sub­sidies – a unanimous decision, according to Chairman Maida Coleman, a Missouri commissioner who sponsored the draft.

Read the Press Release from the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):


February 14, 2018
— Today, NARUC – the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners – adopted a Resolution to ensure that the Federal Lifeline Program Continues to Provide Service to Low-Income Households. The National Lifeline Association (referred to as “NaLA”) appreciates NARUC’s decisive and bipartisan action to defend very low-income Americans access to basic telephone service by opposing the FCC’s proposal to eliminate wireless resellers from the Lifeline program. Over the past decade, states have carried out their statutory role to approve Lifeline providers, and state-designated wireless service providers have grown to serve approximately 90% of Lifeline subscribers. Wireless resellers account for the vast majority of that total and now serve between 7 and 8 million Lifeline subscribers. Based on this success in providing very low-income consumers with the mobile wireless services they can better afford and prefer, state commissions have routinely granted requests from legacy landline service providers to relinquish their ETC designations.

“We thank the state commissioners and NARUC for their efforts to ensure that very low-income consumers can stay connected in today’s digital economy through the Lifeline program,” said David Dorwart, Chairman of NaLA. “Today’s action sends a strong signal that the states continue to take seriously their statutorily designated role in determining which providers are eligible to offer Lifeline services. The FCC’s proposal to eliminate wireless resellers from the program would upend dozens of state designation decisions and strip services from more than 7 million very low-income subscribers. We are tremendously appreciative that the states have joined NaLA, CTIA, Sprint, TracFone and a wide-range of other stakeholders who have come out in support of very low-income consumers, including veterans, the elderly, the disabled, students, single mothers and others throughout rural, suburban and urban areas of America, and recognize the key role wireless resellers perform in delivering those services.”

NaLA also appreciates the resolution’s call for a budget that preserves service for those currently on Lifeline and allows for “reasonable and rational growth” up to the current budget of approximately $2.25 billion. Together with the FCC’s implementation of the National Verifier, these reforms will continue to protect and preserve the integrity of the Lifeline program. It is essential to ensure that the program is available today and tomorrow for all who need assistance and to ensure that they are connected every day to the voice and broadband services all Americans rely on daily to connect to emergency services, educators, healthcare, community and employment services.

About The National Lifeline Association (NaLA):

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the 4 essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Supporters & Participants, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

NaLA’s Vision:

In America, every person should have access to essential communication services.

For comprehensive information regarding the FCC’s proposed changes to the Lifeline program, letter from Congress, industry analysis, and sources please go to www.nalalifeline.org.

Media Contact & Information:

The National Lifeline Association
Phone: (844) 937-6252
Email: [email protected]

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Lee SchaferNaLA to NARUC, on Resolution in Support of Wireless Resellers
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Dems Request GAO Review of FCC on Lifeline National Verifier

Jan. 25, 2018 — A letter from a number of members from the U.S. House Energy & Commerce aasked the Government Accountability Office (GAO)  to review the FCC’s efforts to deploy the Lifeline Program National Verifier — an initiative that aims to verify subscriber information for Lifeline Program participants and ultimately increase the integrity of the Lifeline Program.

House Dems Ask GAO to Review FCC Progress on Lifeline Program National Verifier

In November, the FCC adopted the Lifeline reform revamp and FCC chairman Ajit Pai revoked the most recent round of certifications to new applicants until the FCC addressed the verification issue, but the letter from House members expresses concern that the FCC is not doing all it can to launch the Lifeline Program National Verifier in a timely fashion. In their letter to the GAO, they called for prioritization of the Lifeline Program National Verifier and requested answers to a number of questions, including whether the FCC has a strategic plan for implementing the program on time and what steps it has taken to implement that.

Representatives who signed the letter included Bobby Rush, Frank Pallone, Anna Eshoo, Mike Doyle, G.K Butterfield, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney and Evette Clarke.

Source Ref.:  B&C News, House Dems Seek GAO Review of Lifeline Verifier  By John Eggerton

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Lee SchaferDems Request GAO Review of FCC on Lifeline National Verifier
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FCC Postpones National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program

DEC 1, 2017 —  A newly released FCC Public Notice (WC Docket No. 11-42) announces the FCC Postpones National Verifier for Lifeline Program, which aims to verify subscriber information for Lifeline Program participants.

Updated National Verifier Launch

Up until this point, the National Verifier had been on schedule to launch in six states beginning this month. The initiative, born out of the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order, is now set to launch in early 2018. Once fully implemented, the National Verifier initiative is the next step toward increasing the integrity of the Lifeline Program, which provides low-income American families access to essential communication services.

The FCC decision to Postpone the National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program is mainly related to requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), an act created to ensure data security within the federal government.

The Wireline Competition Bueau (WCB) stated in the FCC Public Notice that “to fulfill this responsibility and protect the security of Lifeline applicants’ personal information, we expect that a postponement until early 2018 will provide USAC with sufficient time to complete all FISMA requirements prior to the initial launch of the National Verifier.”

Read the Dec 1 FCC Public Notice on National Verifier Launch Date

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/FCC-Public-Notice-December-1-2017-Wireline-Competition-Bureau-DA-17-1167A1.pdf”]

More on the National Verifier Launch Timeline

USAC will host a webinar on Monday, December 4 at 1 PM ET to discuss the National Verifier launch timeline and answer questions. Register Here.

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Lee SchaferFCC Postpones National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program
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56 Congress Members Sign Letter To FCC Opposing November 16 Lifeline Program Changes

KENNETT SQUARE, PA–(Marketwired – Nov 16, 2017) The National Lifeline Association (Referred to as “NaLA”) reports that 56 members of Congress have signed and delivered a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai opposing changes to the Lifeline Program which attack low-income families, Veterans, and Native American Tribes.

Press-Release-56-House-Democrats-Sign-Congressional-Lifeline-Letter-to-FCC-on-Lifeline-Changes

The Lifeline Program was created 30 years ago by President Reagan to help ensure that the most vulnerable Americans – which include low-income families, Veterans, and Native Americans – have access to lifesaving communications services. The program was updated and reformed under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to accommodate for technological advances and to strengthen the program’s integrity by minimizing fraud, waste, and abuse.

The program currently provides a modest monthly subsidy of $9.25 from Universal Service Funds, to connect low-income Americans with telephone and internet services.

Proposed changes by the FCC to the Lifeline Program include:

  • Major cuts and budget caps on the Lifeline program, which may shrink the size of all recipient benefits
  • Lifetime cap on individual users which could inflict arbitrary limits on participation and completely cut off those in need
  • Ban “non-facilities-based providers” from participating in the Lifeline Program

The following statement may be attributed to David Dorwart, Chairman of NaLA. “By banning ‘non-facilities-based providers’ from participating in the Lifeline program, 80% of the top Lifeline providers will be forced to stop service, resulting in disconnections for approximately 7.5 million Lifeline recipients nationwide. In some areas of the country, these are the only providers that offer Lifeline service. As a result, as many as three quarters of the current Lifeline subscriber base will be stripped of this crucial service, including over 1.3 million active and retired Veterans and more than half of all current Tribal Lifeline subscribers.”

If ultimately adopted, Chairman Pai’s proposals would roll back the United States’ longstanding commitment that advanced telecommunications services should be universally available to and affordable for all Americans. According to Public Knowledge, “The Chairman’s plan would strand millions of low-income families, Veterans, and children without affordable communications services, and drastically curtail their access to the education, job training, and basic services that increasingly require an internet connection. Rather than moving forward with this plan that would harm the most vulnerable, the FCC should refocus its efforts to promote affordable, competitive broadband for all Americans, and ensure that the Lifeline program remains a core component of our efforts to close the digital divide.”

Read the Congressional letter in its entirety:

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/final_Meeks-Moore-Lifeline-Letter.pdf”]


Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, stated,
“In our modern, highly technological and interconnected world, internet and phone service are all but required to lead a functional life. Many Americans still don’t have phone and internet access, rendering it nearly impossible to complete everyday tasks, such as finishing assigned schoolwork or conducting a phone interview. He also stated, “The digital divide—which Chairman Pai promised he would seek to minimize—persists today and the Lifeline Program is critical in helping minimize it. Yet, Chairman Pai’s proposed changes would practically decimate the Lifeline program, upon which millions of Americans rely. Indeed, this is nothing more than a poorly disguised attack on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. I thank Congresswoman Moore and the cosigners and endorsing organizations of this letter for partnering with me to stand against Chairman Pai’s efforts to widen the digital divide.”

Organizations endorsing the congressional letter opposing changes to the Lifeline Program include: National Lifeline Association (NaLA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Public Knowledge, Free Press, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Benton Foundation, Greenlining Institute, United Church of Christ, Common Sense Kids Action, National Consumer Law Center, The Utility Reform Network, OpenMedia, OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Appalshop, Inc.

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) takes the position that these proposed changes will widen the digital divide facing low-income Americans and are unnecessary given successful reforms to the Lifeline Program, including the December 2017 launch of the National Verifier. Because Lifeline accounts for less than 20% of the allocations to the Universal Service Fund (source: 2016 USAC Annual Budget) and is currently running at about $1 billion a year below its budget, steps aimed at reducing the program’s budget, participation levels and disbursements are indefensible.

About The National Lifeline Association (NaLA):

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the 4 essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Supporters & Participants, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

NaLA’s Vision: “In America, every person should have access to essential communication services.”

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Lee Schafer56 Congress Members Sign Letter To FCC Opposing November 16 Lifeline Program Changes
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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.

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

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Lee SchaferCherokee Tribal Organization ‘Stongly Opposes’ FCC Lifeline Changes
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