OTI Urges FCC to Abandon “Misguided and Cynical” Lifeline Proposal

Press Release
Flickr Creative Commons
Jan. 27, 2020

Today, OTI urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to abandon a cynical set of proposals that would weaken the Lifeline program and jeopardize consumer privacy. In comments filed with Public Knowledge, OTI argued that these proposals would exacerbate the digital divide and harm low-income Americans.

Millions of low-income Americans rely on Lifeline and its $9.25 monthly subsidy for connectivity. However, the participation rate among qualifying Americans is only 25%, and that rate has been declining for the past couple of years. This trend must be stopped, but the FCC’s proposal offers several changes to the program that would threaten to plunge that rate even lower. In the comments, OTI and Public Knowledge argue that the FCC must 1) encourage more qualifying subscribers to participate in the program; 2) abandon its proposals to ask questions of Lifeline subscribers that would threaten to discourage participation; 3) reject its proposal to monitor usage of Lifeline by its recipients; 4) continue to allow carriers to offer Lifeline subscribers free handsets with their service; and 5) protect the privacy and digital security of Lifeline participants.

The following quote can be attributed to Amir Nasr, policy analyst at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“As part of the FCC’s congressionally-mandated responsibility to bring all Americans the connectivity needed in modern society, the Lifeline program is one of the FCC's most powerful tools to fight the digital divide. Unfortunately, the FCC’s misguided and cynical proposals in this item are only likely to deepen the digital divide by discouraging current and potential future participants from participating. This program offers a lifeline to qualifying low-income individuals and it should not come with caveats and extra burdens, such as those suggested in this item. We urge the FCC to reject the problematic aspects of this proposal, and instead focus on encouraging higher program participation rates and protecting the privacy and digital security of Lifeline subscribers.”

Related Topics
Internet Access & Adoption Universal Service Fund