NHMC Supports FCC Lifeline Modernization, A Big Step In The Right Direction To Close Digital Divide
WASHINGTON – Today Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced that the FCC has initiated a process to significantly modernize Lifeline for the 21st century, in part by exploring ways to make broadband connections more affordable for low-income people.
In response to the move, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and dozens of diverse organizations from across the country applauded the move with an outpouring of support.
Currently, Lifeline, defrays the high cost of telephone service, and, in some instances, bundled voice telephone and broadband service, for poor families.
Lifeline has evolved since its inception under President Ronald Reagan in 1985. It was updated to include access to wireless phone services under George W. Bush’s Administration in 2005, and it was also significantly reformed to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in 2012. For nearly a decade, the NHMC has advocated for Lifeline to further evolve to include access to meaningful broadband services to help close the digital divide.
The following statement can be attributed to Jessica J. Gonzalez, NHMC’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel:
“I know from personal experience that Lifeline is a vital pathway out of poverty for millions of Americans. It is the only federal program that directly addresses the affordability of communications services for the poor.
“According to one recent count, only 53% of American Latinos, and 38% of Spanish-dominant American Latinos, have home broadband access. Low income levels are directly correlated to low broadband adoption, and defraying the cost will eliminate one of the foremost barriers to broadband adoption.
“Universal broadband access and adoption is becoming increasingly important. For instance, without it we are unable to educate our nation’s students. According to recent statistics, nearly 100 % of high school students reported needing broadband to complete homework assignments. Yet 5 million U.S. households with school age children don’t have access at home. Our students need the tools to succeed. We must immediately address this educational inequality. This is crucial to ensuring future generations are able to fully participate in our 21st century society and economy.
“I applaud Chairman Wheeler for starting a process to modernize and refocus Lifeline, a necessary step to ensuring the program can become an effective bridge across the digital divide. And I cannot say enough to fully highlight the leadership of Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel in recognizing the potential of Lifeline, and being at the cutting edge of its future.”
Gonzalez will testify in support of Lifeline modernization before the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet on Tuesday, June 2 at 9:30 a.m. A live stream of the hearing will be available at this link. You can follow the conversation on Twitter by following @NHMC, @JGonzalezNHMC, and @michaelscurato.
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. Learn more at www.nhmc.org. Receive real-time updates on Facebook and Twitter @NHMC.