Yesterday the FCC expanded the Lifeline program to support stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages. Previously Lifeline focused on telephone service. This is big for at least two reasons. On a very practical basis it will provide financial incentives for low income Americans to get online. On a philosophical basis – it’s a recognition that broadband is (at least) as essential as telephone service.
The FCC posted a press release that covers everything you’d want to know about Lifeline and more. I’m going to try to distill it to the points that I think most readers will find more interesting…
- Maintain current $9.25 monthly household subsidy. But also anticipates technological advances in the convergence of mobile voice and data, phasing in broadband requirement as support for stand-alone voice decreases to $7.25 on Dec. 1, 2019; $5.25 by Dec. 1, 2020; and no support by Dec. 1, 2021, except in areas where there is only one Lifeline provider
- Will establish an independent National Eligibility Verifier to confirm subscriber eligibility. At the same time the verifier deters waste, fraud and abuse, it will encourage participation by
legitimate providers by removing the burden of eligibility screening.
- Will support stand-alone mobile or fixed broadband Internet access service, as well as bundles including fixed or mobile voice and broadband. Phases in mobile broadband requirement over five years. Includes mobile devices with Wi-Fi and hotspot functionality
- Based on fixed speed standard based on what a substantial majority of consumers receive (currently 10 Mbps downloads/1 Mbps uploads) and sets minimum monthly fixed broadband usage allowance standard, starting at 150 GB and updated thereafter