Could changes in FCC’s Lifeline help students?

Diverse Issues in Higher Education recently ran an article on changes to Lifeline subsidies. Those changes can be confusing, so despite the fact that I’ve posted on this before I’m going to borrow from their explanation of the changes…

The FCC is expected to vote on March 31 on a plan to modernize the Lifeline program by allowing its users to apply their $9.25 per month support to stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages.

Among other things, the plan calls for phasing in broadband service starting at 500 MB per month of 3G data, increasing to 2 GB per month by the end of 2018, according to an FCC draft proposal.

For perspective, with 500 MB a person could spend 21 hours surfing the web. With 2GB, a person could spend 89 hours surfing the web, according to an online mobile phone data calculator.

They recognize the potential limitations..

However, questions remain about the quality and speed of any broadband service that might be provided under Lifeline, as well as whether mobile devices can really perform all the academic and college-related tasks that supporters hope it can.

“Lifeline was designed as a subsidy for telecommunications service only — not the equipment used to connect to those services,” said Josh Stager, policy counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute.

And recognize that this is just one piece to the puzzle…

“Lifeline isn’t the silver bullet that can single-handedly close the digital divide,” Stager said. “It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach, of which Lifeline is just one strategy.”

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, education, FCC, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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