Praise for FCC's Proposed Changes to the Wireless Emergency Alerts Systems

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to improve the Wireless Emergency Alerts System (WEA) – a reliable service that continues to notify thousands of Americans about threatening acts. The WEA covers these alerts:

  1. Alerts issued by the President
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
  3. Amber Alerts
  4. Weather Alerts
    a.     Tsunami Warnings
    b.     Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
    c.      Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warning

The Rural Broadband Policy Group commends the Commission in its mission to make safety a priority in the United States. In a statement released with the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated “Last Friday evening, our hearts collectively skipped a beat as we saw and listened in disbelief the images and commentary of the horrific, violent attacks on one of our country’s oldest allies. Reports of how Parisians used their mobile phones to call for help, access services on social media networks, receive updates on the dangers in specific geographic areas, and to tell family and friends where they can find safe havens are tragically powerful reminders that, when faced with a dire emergency, people increasingly turn first to advanced mobile technologies.”

The following statement can be attributed to Danielle King, Coordinator of the Rural Broadband Policy Group:

“In 2013, eight years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worked together to create a system that notifies communities in times of imminent threats to their safety--the Wireless Emergency Alerts System (WEA).

“WEA uses cell towers to send alerts to wireless phones within the alert zone. However, if a carrier does not participate in WEA, then the consumer is exempt from receiving this life-saving service. This is especially meaningful to rural residents who experience inclement weather conditions year round. The FCC mandates non-participating carriers to notify subscribers if their cell phones are WEA-capable. An emergency service that continues to help communities and families prepare for trouble may leave some rural residents vulnerable when it matters the most.”

Please find Commissioner Clyburn’s full statement here.


Closing the Digital Divide Will Allow Rural America to Participate in the 21st Century

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to modernize the Lifeline program by including funding support for Internet services to underserved and unserved communities. Prior to the Universal Service Fund, millions of people went without basic landline communication services. In 1985, Lifeline was created to provide discounted landline service to qualifying low-income communities. In 2005, Lifeline was extended to wireless telephone services. Ten years later, 53% of Americans living in rural areas and 63% living on Tribal lands do not have access to high-speed broadband.

The Rural Broadband Policy Group commends the Commission in its efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, quality broadband that enhances their lives and helps them emerge from poverty. Lifeline Modernization is one of the most meaningful proceedings the Commission has tackled in recent years – it has the potential to help the most vulnerable members of our society to improve their lives.

The following statement can be attributed to Danielle King, Coordinator of the Rural Broadband Policy Group:

“Historically, rural and Tribal communities are constantly riddled with economic hardship. But with the unique design of the Lifeline program focused on the individual, cost barriers will no longer be an issue that prevents rural, poor communities to carry out basic needs of survival.

“Modernizing the Internet will enable rural, poor people to apply for jobs, complete scholarships for college, and lastly monitor health care delivery online—essential tools to participate in the 21st century. The Internet, for rural residents has the capacity to dictate if there is a solid plan for future generations. The Internet has potential to create social and economic opportunities which can give Millennials, and soon, Generation Z, a great reason to stay or come back to rural America.

“Lifeline represents the human element of the digital divide. Once a community and its institutions – hospitals, libraries, and schools – have access to the Internet, the last connection to make is to the individual, in their home.

“Lifeline Modernization, at its core, is about building an inclusive nation where all can access education, healthcare, economic opportunity, and full participation in society.

“The day has finally come when closing the digital divide is not a dream of one, but a reality for many."

On August 31, the FCC received comments from organizations and individuals about including Internet in Lifeline.

Please listen to how rural residents could benefit from the Modernization of Lifeline:



Rural Broadband Policy Group Applauds Historic FCC Vote to Include Broadband in the Lifeline Program

Today, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman voted to open a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making that would include broadband service in the Lifeline program. This is the first step to help qualifying low-income Americans to apply for a subsidy that helps them afford broadband service. The vote was split along party lines with Democratic Commissioners, Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Chairman Tom Wheeler supporting broadband in the Lifeline program, and Republican Commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly opposing the move.

The Rural Broadband Policy Group applauds this vote as a crucial step to ensure all Americans can access essential broadband service that allows them to participate fully in our society. RBPG commends Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for their leadership in improving this vital program.

The following statement can be attributed to Edyael Casaperalta, Coordinator of the Rural Broadband Policy Group:

“Broadband internet is an invaluable tool for everyone, but for people in rural America and Tribal lands, it can truly be a Lifeline to education, employment, information, improving our communities, and sharing our stories. Broadband is a powerful tool to lift people out of poverty and transform communities, yet 22 million Americans living in rural areas and 63 percent living in Tribal lands cannot access the service. One of their biggest barriers is cost.

We commend the achievements of the Lifeline program in bringing wired and wireless telephone service to low-income rural and Native Americans, and we applaud today’s vote to include broadband service in the Lifeline program. This historic decision will help Americans facing economic hardship get back on their feet. It will help us build an inclusive society where all can fully participate in our economy, culture, and democracy regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

We are encouraged to see Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner Clyburn, and Commissioner Rosenworcel’s sound policymaking and thoughtful leadership in fulfilling the FCC’s Congressional mandate to ensure all Americans have access to advanced telecommunications services. We are disappointed to see Commissioner Pai and O’Reilly oppose such an important step and suggest that the program only serve the poorest of the poor. Good policymaking does not build a hierarchy of poverty. Rural, Native, and low-income Americans cannot afford to be left behind.”

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 consisted of developing a vision of wellness and opportunity for their rural and Tribal 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 and recently wrote a poignant OpEd for the Daily Yonder about her experiences as a Lifeline telephone recipient who supports including broadband in the program.