A top FCC staffer talked yesterday about some of the bundling and minimum service requirement concerns that have been revolving around the Commission’s Lifeline proposal. Gigi Sohn, counselor to FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, was speaking to the New America Foundation regarding the recently circulated order that would allow low-income consumers to apply for a $9.25/month broadband subsidy.
“While mobile voice will continue to be a supported service, after Dec. 1, 2019, it will have to be bundled with data to be Lifeline-eligible,” Sohn notes. “To give Lifeline providers time to adjust, we will phase down support for stand-alone mobile voice over a multi-year period.”
After the stand-alone mobile voice subsidy is eliminated, the FCC will examine the market in mid-2019 to determine whether there needs to be an adjustment. Sohn says that the FCC believes that three years will be enough time for the market to adapt, but a control device is built into the proposal just in case that doesn’t happen.
“The Commission has a safety valve by which it can examine how the market has evolved between now and 2019, and preserve a subsidy for stand-alone mobile voice if it’s deemed necessary,” she says.
Sohn also took on minimum service standards for voice and data, which reportedly would ensure that an affordable Lifeline service is not “a second-class service.”
She reviewed the minimums required, which for fixed broadband Internet access is 10 Mbps down and 1 up with a data allowance of 150 GB. For mobile voice, the minimum is unlimited minutes, and for mobile data, the minimum data allowance starts at 500 MB on Dec. 1, 2016 with increases to 2 GB by Dec. 1, 2018.
“Finding the right balance between robust service and affordability is difficult, and we continue to talk to a variety of stakeholders on this issue. Our goal … is to allow low-income Americans to take full advantage of the myriad opportunities access to broadband brings while ensuring that service remains within their reach,” Sohn says. “But that objective is unlikely to be fulfilled unless we provide incentives for carriers to offer meaningful broadband to low-income communities.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations