80 Telecommunications Providers Opt-Out of Helping Low-Income Americans with Broadband Access Through Lifeline Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2016

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80 Telecommunications Providers Opt-Out of Helping Low-Income Americans with Broadband Access Through Lifeline Program

The National Hispanic Media Coalition today expresses disappointment with the over 80 telecommunications providers, including AT&T, Cox Communications, Charter, and Verizon, that have opted out of providing Lifeline broadband service. A list of all the carriers who have so far filed for forbearance can be found here.

In its filing, Verizon states its intention to provide Lifeline broadband only in its Fios Internet access area in mid-2017. While this is a good first step, NHMC believes Verizon must better serve its low-income customers by expanding its Lifeline broadband service to its entire broadband footprint and not only where it offers Fios.

“The FCC made history in helping ensure millions of Americans would have access to broadband internet through its Lifeline modernization order, but the program’s success is predicated on our nation’s providers stepping up to meet theirresponsibility to low-income consumers,” said Jessica J. González, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “While we are encouraged by those providers that have chosen to become Lifeline broadband providers, we urge those that have opted out of this obligation to reconsider their position to help bridge the digital divide.”

Many carriers have stated that they may provide Lifeline in the future, and NHMC urges each of them to make firm commitments and provide a timeline.

Despite some carriers turning away from the responsibility, NHMC applauds carriers such as Sprint, which plans to provide broadband Lifeline through its partnership with wireless provider i-Wireless. The FCC’s full list of carriers that have applied to become broadband Lifeline providers can be found here.

NHMC has long been a champion of the Lifeline program, which provides a modest $9.25 subsidy to low-income consumers to afford telephone service. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to modernize the Lifeline program by allowing eligible low-income Americans to apply their modest Lifeline discount to broadband service plans that meet certain minimum standards. NHMC had encouraged the FCC to modernize the program beyond subsidizing only basic telephony services to also help consumers access educational resources, career opportunities, and health and civil tools afforded exclusively through internet access.

The FCC order allowed for existing Lifeline providers to exempt themselves from the broadband obligation through forbearance—a tool that numerous carriers are now employing to sidestep responsibility to low-income customers. Carriers had until December 2 to file for this blanket protection.

Earlier this month, NHMC and four other diverse public interest groups spoke out against AT&T’s decision to file for forbearance just a few hours before the Thanksgiving holiday after the company had vocally favored the modernization of the Lifeline program to include broadband.

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The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a media advocacy and civil rights organization for the advancement of Latinos, working towards a media that is fair and inclusive of Latinos, and towards universal, affordable, and open access to communications. Receive real-time updates on Facebook, Twitter @NHMC and Instagram @NHMC_org.

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