With the recent change of the guard at Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the appointment of Chairman Pai, HTTP is hopeful that beneficial programs such as Lifeline will continue to be supported and modernized, as needed, to meet the ever-growing demand for broadband access. These programs help to bridge the digital divide and provide much needed services to low-income families, a disproportionate amount of which are Latino families.
The most recent news concerning the delay of a handful of applications for participation in the Lifeline program has encountered scrutiny. However, the Chairman clarified his decision and he has stated the following about the recent developments:
1) 900 companies have been accepted into the Lifeline program and the recent delay only impacts nine companies
2) The applications were not denied but delayed and are simply being given the appropriate scrutiny associated with applying for a government program with a multi-billion dollar budget
3) Eight of the nine companies affected do not have a single customer
There is nothing wrong with extra scrutiny given what is entrusted to these providers; access to broadband for low-income families and millions of dollars. It is important to ensure that providers are prepared to abide by the rules set forth in the Lifeline program. It is a way to ensure that Lifeline is most effective in providing affordable phone and broadband service to those in need.
It is well documented that members of the Latino community find themselves disproportionately on the wrong side of both the digital divide and the poverty line. Programs like Lifeline are critically important to helping close the digital divide for low-income Latino families. It is also crucial that companies are not engaging in fraud and abusive practices that take dollars away from the program that should rightfully be available to eligible program participants in need.
HTTP has been supportive of the Lifeline program and will continue to work with Chairman Pai and all FCC commissioners in the hopes that vital programs like Lifeline continue to help the Latino community cross the digital divide.