RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Mak writes: "FCC chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to scale down the Lifeline program, which offers subsidies for internet and phone service to low-income Americans. The plan would effectively cut affordable internet access through the program for 8 million people, about 70 percent of the Lifeline's recipients."

FCC chairman Ajit Pai. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)
FCC chairman Ajit Pai. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Wants to Cut Back Program That Helps Poor People Get Affordable Internet

By Aaron Mak, Slate

05 April 18


CC chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to scale down the Lifeline program, which offers subsidies for internet and phone service to low-income Americans. The plan would effectively cut affordable internet access through the program for 8 million people, about 70 percent of the Lifeline’s recipients. This reduction would be particularly devastating for Puerto Rico, where about 500,000 people, or 17 percent of the population, have relied on the Lifeline program since Hurricane Maria.

Last week, 11 Democratic senators, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to the FCC asking the commission to reconsider the cut backs. “The Lifeline Program is essential for millions of Americans who rely on subsidized internet access to find jobs, schedule doctor’s appointments, complete their school assignments, interface with the government, and remain connected in a digital economy,” the letter reads, in part. “The program helps Americans—including disproportionate numbers of families with children, veterans and people of color—survive.” A group of 68 House members sent a similar letter.

Under the current program, people at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible to buy a discounted internet and phone subscription for $9.25 per month. The Reagan administration introduced Lifeline in 1985 to subsidize phone service, and it was expanded in 2016 to include internet. Pai’s revisions to the program would prevent smaller companies known as resellers, which don’t have their own infrastructure, from buying network capacity from big telecom providers and then selling it back to low-income consumers at cheaper rates. A majority of Lifeline recipients purchase their internet access from resellers.

“Removing resellers from the program is going to significantly undermine the reach and usefulness of the program,” Eric Null, policy counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute, told Slate. “If the proposal goes through, those folks need to either be transitioned to a new Lifeline provider or would lose their access completely.” (New America is a partner with Slate and Arizona State University in Future Tense.)

True to form, Pai has made a free market argument for these changes, writing that they will “improve the business case for deploying facilities to serve low-income households.” He also noted that resellers often abuse the Lifeline program, referencing reports that many recipients are deceased or fictional.

Yet even some of Pai’s most formidable corporate cheerleaders, such as Verizon, Sprint, and the United States Telecom Association, have submitted comments to the FCC stating that the plan would hurt low-income consumers. For example, Verizon wrote in its comments, “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.” The Democratic senators also wrote in their letter that the FCC has provided “no evidence, analysis, or data” that the proposed move would spur investment.

Another contentious provision in the FCC’s proposal to institute a maximum lifetime benefit limit for individuals in the program. “That essentially requires the FCC to institute a new way to track people across their lifetimes. It creates some pretty serious privacy concerns,” Null said. “It would be very cumbersome for the consumer and very cumbersome for the FCC.”

Pai is perhaps most notable for guiding the FCC to reverse Obama-era rules protecting net neutrality in December, a decision widely panned by the public and Silicon Valley tech companies. He’s also come under fire for introducing loopholes into media consolidation rules that would allow Sinclair Broadcasting to extend its grasp on local news by acquiring Tribune Media. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+3 # PeacefulGarden 2018-04-05 18:14
Pai is a luxury boat salesman. I don't care what his resume says. Did he work for Fox News? Perhaps Dr. Phil?
+7 # Benign Observer 2018-04-05 18:20
Here's a quote from Bernie Sanders yesterday, when asked about how to attract millennials:

"The business model of the Democratic Party, for the last 15 years or so, has been a failure. (applause) Now people sometimes don't see that because there was a charismatic individual named Barack Obama who won the presidency in 2008 and 2012. He was obviously an extraordinary candidate, a brilliant guy. But behind that reality, over the last 10 years, Democrats lost about 1000 seats .. all across this country, and you've got a significant number of states with a GOP governor and legislatures. Now how does this happen when the agenda of the GOP is for billionaires? You don't win elections unless you show up."

And here is the reaction of 'moderate' Democrats:

CNN contributor Bakari Sellers tweeted:

"Y'all can defend Bernie all you want .. his lack of self-awareness and arrogance in dismissing #44 is wild. Bernie 2020 died 4/4/18"

Other pundits said:

"Bernie Sanders dismissed Barack Obama as nothing more than a 'charismatic leader'."

"Bernie Sanders slammed the first black president."

I believe what Sanders was saying is that even with a popular and charismatic leader the Democrats lost a thousand seats. Everything he said about Obama was complimentary.

Be prepared for the next 2-1/2 years. It's going to be full of bullshit slams against Sanders, and rehashes of bogus accusations.

These people do not understand what's coming.
+1 # lfeuille 2018-04-06 19:31
Nothing like using the "race card" against the best inerests of the poor, but especially poor blacks. I'm afraid it might work.

I don't think the intent of Bernie's comments about Obama were complimentary even if the the words were not obviously critical, the implication was that Obama is at least partly responsible for the losses because he ignored the states and just concentrated on his own reelection. Bernie didn't say it directly but that's what he was referring to and he was right. It really didn't have anything to do with Obama being black, nor did Bernie suggest that it did, but it will be played that way.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.