WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, in a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) voted to begin a formal process to modernize Lifeline.
Lifeline currently offers a modest subsidy to struggling households so that they may afford landline or wireless phone service, as well as some limited voice and broadband bundles.
NHMC applauded Chairman Wheeler's outline of his vision for modernizing Lifeline for the digital age, which he released on May 28.
The following statement can be attributed to Jessica J. Gonzalez, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of NHMC:
"Lifeline has tremendous potential to dramatically improve the lives of millions of Americans who cannot currently afford to connect to the Internet - the essential communications network of today.
"Currently, 30% of Americans lack home broadband. Those without home broadband are disproportionately poor, Latino, African American, Native American, rural, and/or seniors. Only 53% of American Latinos, and a mere 37% of Spanish-dominant Latinos, have home broadband. Cost is the main barrier to adoption for people under sixty-five years of age. At the same time, broadband is critical to nearly every facet of modern American life, including education, employment, healthcare, civic participation and more. This crisis must be addressed without delay.
"This is an exciting moment in history: we have the opportunity to take the next step in a commitment that dates back to the Postal Act of 1792 - to ensure that everyone in this country can access the networks that connect us to commerce, information, education and democracy. In this day and age, making sure that our neighbors can afford broadband should be a national priority and is among the best investments that we can make as a country.
"Today, we begin a tried and tested FCC process to explore proposals, ask questions, and facilitate a national dialogue on the issue. I hope that this process will conclude by the end of this year because, as we all know, every moment a family goes without access to the essential tools that exist online is a profound missed opportunity, especially for the 5 million U.S. households with schoolchildren that cannot complete basic homework assignments because they do not have broadband Internet.
"I appreciate the resolve of Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner Clyburn and Commissioner Rosenworcel to move this process forward. And I cannot thank enough Commissioner Clyburn for her longstanding belief in Lifeline's potential to transform lives and provide a pathway out of poverty for millions of Americans."
Dozens of national and regional civil rights organizations, policymakers, media rights advocates, and other community groups have recently gone on the record in support of modernizing Lifeline. Last week, many of these groups, including NHMC, proposed principles to Chairman Wheeler to guide the FCC's modernization process.
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 in 2012 it was reformed to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.
Earlier this month, Gonzalez testified 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. Her written testimony, which includes citations for the facts cited in this release, is available here.