The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) is considering a proposal that would put an arbitrary spending cap on all Universal Service Fund programs including Lifeline, E-Rate, the Connect America Fund, and the Rural Health Care Program. These programs help schools and libraries provide digital access to populations in need, accelerate broadband deployment initiatives in unserved and underserved areas, and create opportunities for telemedicine in remote communities. Lifeline, in particular, connects more than twelve million households with essential telephone or wireless broadband services.
Francella Ochillo, Vice President of Policy and General Counsel at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, added:
“Many Americans who benefit from USF programs, like Lifeline, are already struggling with poverty and disconnectedness. This proposal would add a layer of uncertainty to the only federal program that ensures that they maintain access to telephone or wireless broadband services.
“Last year, the Commission successfully helped destabilize the Lifeline program with proposals that threatened to disconnect millions of Lifeline subscribers and decimate competition. As that program faces constant attrition, the FCC has turned to the other USF programs to suggest additional cuts instead of improvements.
“Latino communities need the FCC to find ways to make good on its promise to bridge the digital divide instead of perfecting ways to undermine programs working towards that goal. Arbitrary budget cuts to Universal Service Funds will disconnect Americans who are starving for digital opportunities, especially in unserved and underserved communities that Latinos call home.”