All posts tagged: Chairman Pai

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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Sprint Opposes Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban

February 20, 2018 — Sprint expresses concerns with the FCC’s recent proposals concerning a Lifeline wireless reseller ban, which would prohibit wireless resellers from serving low income households as Service Providers through the Lifeline Program. The Notice on Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), an initiative from the FCC’s November 2017 Open Meeting that included various Lifeline Program initiatives, such as banning wireless resellers from providing Lifeline service.

Sprint says Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban Could Affect 6.1 Million

Sprint, a facilities-based provider, has echoed the concerns of various non-facilities-based providers on the recent FCC proposals found in the NPRM. They oppose the Lifeline wireless reseller ban that the FCC is pursuing, and state that the “elimination of resellers from the Lifeline program would be disruptive to current and potential Lifeline customers. The majority of Lifeline customers obtain service from resellers, which had an estimated 6.1 million customers as of December 2017.”

Consequences of FCC Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban

The letter from Sprint highlights many concerns for Lifeline Participants that rely on the program to assist them in accessing essential communication services. They noted that the Lifeline wireless reseller ban would result in a “a sharp reduction in the number of wireless service providers offering Lifeline service; in some areas, there may remain only a single facilities-based wireless Lifeline service provider, and in other areas, there may be no facilities-based wireless Lifeline service provider at all.” Sprint adds that “users [Lifeline Participants] will not realize they need to obtain service from a facilities-based carrier, some will not know how to transfer their service, some will not provide required documentation in a timely manner. Some customers will successfully transfer to a facilities-based carrier, but some will lose service altogether.”

The forced exit of wireless resellers as Lifeline service providers from the Lifeline market is disruptive of consumer access to emergency services, or other resources necessary for employment, health care, or childcare.

Read Sprint’s Letter to FCC

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Sprint-LL-comments.pdf”]

Postponing of Lifeline Program Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier)

In addition to concerns about the ban of wireless resellers in Lifeline, Sprint also asserts in the letter to the FCC that the National Verifier is a crucial part of reducing waste, fraud, and abuse within the program – and should be the most important focus of the Commission at this time.

The recent postponing of the National Verifier launch has created concern that the Commission’s actions do not support it’s stated goals about strengthening the Lifeline Program eligibility verification processes.

“Getting the deployment timeline back on track is the surest way for the Commission to advance the common goal of ensuring Lifeline program integrity,” Sprint states in their letter to the FCC. Sprint, TracFone and other Telecommunication companies are in agreement that efforts are best focused on the National Verifier, prior to making any drastic changes to the program, which helps nearly 11 million low-income Americans access phone and internet services.

 

About 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.”

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Lee SchaferSprint Opposes Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban
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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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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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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.

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Lee SchaferTribes Request Delay of Lifeline Changes Affecting Tribal Members
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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.

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Lee SchaferColville Tribe Responds to FCC Plans for Tribal Lifeline Funds
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FCC News: Broadband Service A Priority in Infrastructure Spending Bill

Making Broadband Service A Priority in the Infrastructure Spending Bill

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh last week, addressing his views on the importance that broadband become a priority in the infrastructure spending bill. His speech was one of many on a tour to share his broadband agenda in several cities, including Detroit and Cleveland.

In the digital age, I believe, our wired and wireless broadband networks are core components of our nation’s infrastructure.

FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai

Central to Pai’s message is the belief that access to broadband will increase economic opportunity for low-income Americans. His speech called for funds for broadband related projects to be administered through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to “maximize the impact of these investments” and “minimize waste”. As the chairman continues toward efforts in expanding broadband access, he also aims to dismantle regulation that may hinder these initiatives.

Pai also emphasized that incentives should be put in place for broadband providers to bring connectivity to many overlooked rural communities. He urged Congress to include his proposal for Gigabit Opportunity Zones, which will offer tax incentives to these providers.

Source: https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/flip.it%2FA2yYwT-fcc-chairman-promises-broadband-for-all/f-26ffcd4bd9%2Fcnet.com

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Jordan AxtFCC News: Broadband Service A Priority in Infrastructure Spending Bill
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FCC News: Chairman Pai On Recent Federal Lifeline Program Order

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement addressing the controversy surrounding the Order on Reconsideration of Lifeline Broadband Provider designations, clarifying his support of bridging the digital divide. In the statement, Pai cites his first two proposals as FCC Chairman as evidence of his commitment to the Federal Lifeline Program, a program that helps underserved and low-income individuals and families gain access to crucial telecommunication services.

“One of them [the proposals] would direct billions of dollars […] over a decade toward making sure that all parts of this country have 4G LTE coverage. […] The other would allocate nearly $2 billion […] for advancing fixed broadband service across the country. With more connectivity, more Americans than ever before will have digital opportunity,” Pai stated.

Behind the Lifeline Broadband Reconsideration

FCC Chairman Pai’s statement notes that the decisions regarding the broadband designations made by the prior FCC disregarded the processes for approving applications like these, and that many were approved “in the last days of the Administration (two days before Inauguration Day), over the objections of two of the four Commissioners.”

Additionally, the Chairman’s statement reiterates that this order is not contradictory to the efforts of the Lifeline Program. The order applies only to 9 of the 900+ providers participating in the Lifeline Program. Pai asserts that the reconsideration of these newly designated Lifeline Providers, all but one of which did not yet have any customers, should have very little effect on the consumers that the Federal Lifeline Program aims to assist.

The Future For Lifeline Broadband Providers

The FCC proposes focusing on strengthening the integrity of the Federal Lifeline Program, first and foremost. In his statement, the Chairman reminds the public that “every dollar that is spent on subsidizing somebody who doesn’t need the help […] does not go to someone who does [need the help].”

The National Verifier, a new database to assist in the verification of eligibility in Lifeline Program participation will be a large step in the right direction for strengthening the integrity of the Lifeline Program, but it is estimated that this will not will not be fully integrated until 2019.

The integration of the National Verifier will greatly eliminate fraud/waste within the Lifeline Program. Thus, understandably would serve as a great precursor to the expansion of Lifeline Broadband through the designation of new Lifeline Broadband Providers, assuring that available resources are most efficiently allocated to those who in need of the services the Lifeline Program can offer.

Source: https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/blog/2017/02/07/setting-record-straight-digital-divide
(original article was posted on Medium.com)

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Jordan AxtFCC News: Chairman Pai On Recent Federal Lifeline Program Order
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