FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is worried about waste and fraud when it comes new proposals regarding the Commission’s Lifeline program. It’s long been one of the criticisms swirling around the whole issue, especially since it is financed by U.S. consumers and abuse of the service has occurred in the past.
“Modernizing the FCC’s Lifeline program to support affordable, high-speed Internet access for our nation’s poorest families is a worthy goal,” Pai says in a statement released today. “But failing to clean up the waste, fraud and abuse in the program puts the entire enterprise in jeopardy.”
Pai is using his statement to propose a compromise to update Lifeline in what he says is a fiscally responsible way.
“First, I have proposed an annual budget of $1.75 billion,” Pai writes. “This is enough money to offer Lifeline-supported Internet access to every single Lifeline-qualifying household that isn’t online today, as well as to maintain landline voice service as proposed by Chairman Wheeler.”
Pai also puts forward an enforceable budget mechanism that automatically reduces payments to service providers when the estimated costs of the program would exceed the budget.
“As Senator Claire McCaskill recently wrote us, a mechanism must ‘prevent a repeat of the unchecked increase in spending that was seen the last time the program was expanded.’ My proposal would do just that without denying any eligible consumer a Lifeline subsidy,” Pai says.
The Commissioner also proposes to eliminate the “enhanced” subsidy in counties with more than 50 people per square mile. “This $25 per subscriber subsidy was intended to support the construction of facilities in Indian Country, but has instead encouraged abuse of the program in large cities (like Tulsa, Oklahoma and Reno, Nevada) and suburban communities (like Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix),” he notes.
Additionally, Pai has proposed to set minimum standards of 25 Mbps for fixed broadband services and 4G LTE for mobile broadband services.
“I believe low-income families and students deserve a seat at the table,” he concludes. “We have a rare chance to modernize the Lifeline program and restore fiscal discipline to the Universal Service Fund. I hope my colleagues will join me and make this a bipartisan effort.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations