A divided FCC approved its Lifeline program modernization a couple weeks ago, which is intended among other things to help low-income consumers better afford access to broadband. It’s hard to find anyone who would say that better access to broadband is not a good thing. However, the way Lifeline gets paid for was a big part of the reason that the two Republican FCC commissioners voted no.
Enter CURB (H.R.4884) into the fray, which is a House bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Austin (R-Ga.) that would impose a budget cap of $1.5 billion annually on the FCC program.
Yesterday, FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Ajit Pai expressed strong support for H.R.4884 through a letter they sent to Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Greg Walden. “This measure represents a necessary and important step toward greater fiscal responsibility for the program, especially as it expands in size and scope to cover broadband services,” the commissioners say.
Some Democrats in the House have criticized the GOP-backed H.R. 4884 legislation as a harsh approach that could deny access to low-income Americans that need it. A group that has a similar line of thought is the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which also wrote to Chairman Walden earlier this week.
“We oppose the proposed cap, which would prevent eligible participants from using the Lifeline program and preclude universality, a key principle for Lifeline reform,” the coalition says. “The Lifeline program has never approached full participation rates by eligible populations. This cap could halt payments to eligible consumers mid-stream or result in unacceptable waiting lists for eligible households or other unreasonable and administratively cumbersome management mechanisms.”
The Leadership Conference further argues that the FCC’s new budget mechanism combines fiscal responsibility with the ability to respond in the event of an unanticipated increase in need, such as one caused by an economic downturn or natural disaster.
Filed Under: Industry regulations