Federal Communications Commission

Transitioning Lifeline to Broadband: A Roundtable

June 22nd, 2010 by Elise Kohn

Since they were established in 1980s, the FCC’s Lifeline and Link Up programs have made telephone service more affordable for low-income consumers.  (Lifeline reduces the monthly bill and Link Up reduces the cost of the initial connection.) They have helped the nation achieve its goal of connecting nearly all Americans to telephone service.  So with the next big goal facing us – connecting all Americans to broadband – it seemed logical to update these two programs for the broadband era, and the National Broadband Plan recommended doing just that.  Recommendation 9.1 says the FCC “should expand Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up America to make broadband more affordable for low-income households.”  The Plan also recommends that the evolution start with pilot programs to make sure that the changes will increase broadband adoption in low-income communities.  Well, that process begins now with a June 23 roundtable convening to discuss the design of pilot programs.  It’s open to the public at FCC headquarters, but if you can’t join us, watch online at, either live or in the archive. And we welcome your comments here.

5 Responses to “Transitioning Lifeline to Broadband: A Roundtable”

  1. Guest says:

    Ok I am on dial up because my parents seriously fked me in life. They moved to a place that has no high speed internet that is any good (drops out ever 15 minutes and top speed is 42KB) & not worth it because you spend most of the day trying to get it to connect and waiting for it to load. It was a complete rip off and customer support was zil. There are no jobs here and I had to get my parents credit card (I am 26 ) just to get dial up internet access which is worse because it drops out always too and since like everything is graphics/watch this video etc, it sucks big time. If I had broadband here a long time ago (real broadband that didn't suck) I would have moved out of this hellhole a long time ago. My parents seriously fked me in life.!!!!!!!!!

  2. Guest says:

    It's important to make sure the program is sustainable.
    If the costs to low-income families and government entitities will not be sustainable in the long run, people are better off with POTS, plain old telephone service.
    Please don't create a program that will die because it't too costly in the long run !

  3. Brett Glass says:

    The current "lifeline" and "linkup" programs are tailored toward monopoly telephone companies -- not broadband, which is competitive. The best form for an analogous program for broadband would be a system of vouchers, in which low income consumers would receive vouchers that could be turned in to ANY broadband provider -- large or small, wired or wireless, in partial payment of the month's bill. The amount of the voucher would be 50% of the average cost of a broadband connection in the census tract, as determined by a survey. A user whose voucher was not redeemed (i.e. was not turned in because he or she did not adopt) would not receive another one until the previous one was redeemed. The use of vouchers would encourage competition for the customers - in terms of price, features, and quality of service - and would thus work better than a subsidy delivered via a single carrier.

  4. Rick-in-NC says:

    Low income households wishing to surf the internet is good for rounding up votes, but the internet is basically an advertising gateway and those low income households will likely not spend what they saved on getting connected on products advertised on the network.

    A better use of that money would be to funnel it towards getting the more wealthy households in rural areas connected. Many people who could afford to move to less populated areas did so to get out of the congestion of the future 4G cities. I understand the profit margin of connecting an apartment complex with 5000 renters outweighs running fiber 15 miles beyound the city limits, but it makes no sense to spend money where there is no money.

  5. Guest says:

    Foundation is the key to any worthy program. Affordable broadband access is as vital as roads, perhaps even more so in the future. Therefore, a universal service fund (small tax on all broadband users) in a level and fair, regulatory environment will be necessary for it to happen. Who will invest in rural America (where limited or no profit exists for them) without a funded mandate to do it? However as an interest to the needs of our country, it is critical for businesses, jobs, education, reduction of welfare rolls and costs, etc. Universal affordable access opens many doors of necessity and opportunity; which benefits us all in the long run. Policies governing rural America must also be realistic: the price to bring the most advanced services (fiber or cell) are at this time too cost prohibitive in relation to profit margins in many cases, but basic DSL is a very cost effective alternative, with much of the infrastructure presently in place. Almost everyone has access to phone service, and the technology exists to make it work, albeit with some investment, regulatory requirement and sacrifice, but in the end I believe it would benefit us all.

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