All posts tagged: Lifeline Broadband Provider

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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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.

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Lee SchaferLifeline Advocates Urge FCC to Reconsider Proposed Program Changes
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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: 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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FCC Releases Order on Reconsideration for Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs)

New FCC Chairman Pai released an Order on Reconsideration for LBP designations on Friday, allowing the FCC to reconsider the Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designations for nine new Lifeline broadband providers.

Recently effective changes per the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order included the extension of the Lifeline Program to include broadband services. Inclusion of Lifeline-supported broadband allows qualifying low-income consumers to apply the $9.25 per month subsidy to stand-alone mobile or fixed broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages, rather than voice services alone.

Effects on Lifeline Broadband Designation

Several carriers had petitioned for designation as Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs) and nine were approved by the Wireline Competition Bureau in orders released in December and January.

According to the recent Order on Reconsideration for Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs), the FCC will “set aside the orders designating AR Designs, Boomerang, FreedomPop, Kajeet, KonaTel, Liberty, Northland Cable, Spot On, and WIN as LBPs […] and return those providers’ petitions for designation as an LBP to their status as petitions pending.”

“We find that reconsidering the above-listed petitions for designation as an LBP would promote program integrity by providing the Bureau with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program,” the bureau said.

Regarding the order, USAC commended the FCC’s “commitment to universal service and the integrity of the Lifeline Program”, adding that “reconsiderations […] are common during administration changes.”

How will this affect Lifeline ETCs with Voice Designations?

Lifeline ETCs with voice designations are still authorized to provide Lifeline-supported broadband, while Lifeline subscribers of the affected LBPs will be allowed to select a new service provider. The order has laid out an approach to ensure the effect on consumers is minimized.

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Jordan AxtFCC Releases Order on Reconsideration for Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs)
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Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) Designation, Minimum Service Standards

On September 30, 2016, the FCC released a Public Notice (DA 16-118) that offers additional guidance from the Wireline Competition Bureau to entities seeking Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designations for the Lifeline program. Included in the notice are minimum service standards for Lifeline-supported Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS), and guidelines that will be applicable to LBPs and eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) seeking Lifeline reimbursement.

Read the PDF of the FCC Notice (DA 16-118) on LBP Minimum Service Standards:

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/DA-16-1118A1.pdf”]


Source: http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0930/DA-16-1118A1.pdf

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Lee SchaferLifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) Designation, Minimum Service Standards
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