Yesterday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his proposal to “reboot” Lifeline, the benefit program that helps low-income Americans afford wireline and wireless telephone service. The Chairman proposes to add broadband to the communications services offered via the successful program created during the Reagan administration. In a blog post announcing his proposal, Wheeler states “Our nation’s enduring promise is opportunity for all, and helping financially struggling Americans access basic communications empowers individuals to pursue new opportunities and build better lives.”
The Rural Broadband Policy Group applauds this announcement as another example of the Commission’s continued efforts to ensure all Americans can access the tools that allow them to participate fully in our society. RBPG commends Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s leadership in improving this valuable program.
According to Edyael Casaperalta, Coordinator of the Rural Broadband Policy Group:
“The internet is an invaluable tool for everyone, but for people in rural America, it can be a lifeline to education, employment, information, improving our communities, and sharing our stories. We commend the achievements of the Lifeline program in bringing wired and wireless telephone service to low-income rural Americans, and we strongly support a Lifeline program that also offers internet service.
The internet is a powerful tool to lift people out of poverty and transform communities, but 22 million Americans living in rural areas cannot access this service and one of their biggest barriers is cost. We believe Lifeline would go a long way to help rural low-income Americans access vital internet service and create a nation where all can participate in our culture, economy, and democracy regardless of where they live or what they can afford.”
In early March, 21 young advocates from the YouthBuild Rural Caucus participated in a discussion with the Rural Broadband Policy Group about how to improve the Lifeline program. Their conversation centered on developing a vision of wellness and opportunity for their rural communities. Please see the Lifeline Internet principles and recommendations they developed here. Sharell Harmon, a participant from Elkins, West Virginia, was featured in a New York Times article about her experiences as a Lifeline telephone recipient and her support for including broadband in the program.