Although the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules took effect on June 12, threats to the rules remain. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now prevented from blocking or throttling lawful content, or creating online fast lanes for those who can afford them. On July 30, a handful of ISPs and trade associations filed their arguments with a federal court, seeking to overturn key aspects of protections the FCC put in place. More than a dozen other individuals and organizations have stated their intent to file “friend of the court” briefs in support of the ISPs and trade associations.
The FCC’s rules have also faced significant threats in Congress. Recently, language was added to a House appropriations bill to punish the FCC for issuing rules and prevent the rules from taking effect. A similar threat surfaced during the Senate appropriations process. Leading up to an anticipated floor vote, NHMC met with every Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) office to educate on the FCC’s action and urge members to oppose efforts to scale it back. The appropriations process has recently been derailed due to other issues, including a debate about the display of the Confederate Flag on federal grounds.
On June 18, the FCC voted to begin a formal process to modernize Lifeline for the broadband era. Lifeline provides a modest $9.25 subsidy to low-income families to help them afford basic telephone service. NHMC is a long-time proponent of modernizing Lifeline to fully include broadband.
Latinos remain one of the groups most disconnected from broadband service, with only about half having a home subscription. That number drops to 38 percent for families that prefer to speak Spanish. Latinos who lack broadband at home name affordability as the reason. Indeed, more than a third (36 percent) of Latino smartphone owners have had to cancel or cut off service for a period of time because of the financial burden. By utilizing this small subsidy to help make broadband more affordable, Lifeline could be a key component to closing the digital divide.
The FCC’s recent action comes on the heels of NHMC’s Jessica J. Gonzalez’ June testimony in support of Lifeline modernization before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. The webcast of her remarks is available at minute 47:17 of this video.
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