Congress Urges FCC to Modernize Lifeline and Combat Digital Divide

For Immediate Release: February 11, 2016 Contact: Christina DiPasquale, 202.716.1953,

 Push by 81 Members of Congress for Lifeline Modernization at FCC will Help America Overcome the Digital Divide, Says National Hispanic Media Coalition 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, 81 members of Congress submitted a letter, organized by U.S. Representatives Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz), to the Federal Communications Commission supporting the modernization of the Lifeline program. The program provides a modest $9.25 monthly subsidy to low-income families that struggle to afford basic phone service and the FCC is currently considering proposals which would allow eligible families to apply the benefit to broadband services. Read the letter here: Said Michael Scurato, Vice President of Policy for the National Hispanic Media Coalition: “Lifeline is a program that supports telephone access in 14 million low-income homes today and, if updated to include broadband, has the potential to bring communities of color online. Throughout its history, Lifeline has provided families with a pathway out of poverty and modernizing the program is a critical investment in our communities, giving them access to the resources and tools they need to learn, work, stay connected, and thrive in the 21st century. “The Lifeline program has received broad support over many years and we are emboldened by such a large group of Congressional members coming together to reaffirm our commitment to helping the FCC bring this important initiative across the finish line without delay. We thank Representatives Takano, Ellison, and Grijalva for their leadership and each of the signatories for their outspoken support." Half of Latino households lack home Internet access and the number of Americans who subscribe to home broadband has declined significantly in recent years, lagging most among diverse communities, the poor, seniors, people with disabilities and the less educated. For nearly a decade, the National Hispanic Media Coalition has advocated for Lifeline to further evolve to include access to meaningful broadband services to help close the digital divide. NHMC filed comments and reply comments in the FCC’s current open proceeding. The letter from members of Congress to Chairman Wheeler today concludes, “With this new service, low-income Americans would have the means necessary to access essential health and social services, educational resources, employment information, and communications networks. We encourage the Commission to implement the expansion as soon as possible, as we cannot be inactive and allow the digital divide to further deepen at the expense of 53% of low-income households without broadband access.” In addition to broadly supporting the modernization of Lifeline, the letter from members of Congress calls on the FCC to promote consumer choice by allowing the subsidy to be applied to any telecommunications service; encourage competition among providers; avoid mandatory “co-pay” schemes; implement a functional standard for Lifeline broadband services; and streamline and coordinate enrollment with other federal benefits programs, among other things. 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 improve program integrity in 2012.  ]]>

National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a woman-led 501(c)(3) non-profit civil and human rights organization that was founded to eliminate hate, discrimination, and racism toward the Latino communities.
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