The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started changing its program known as Lifeline that gives discounted internet and phone service to low-income homes. The overhauling of such programs will outright affect the existing discounts on Tribal lands by widely limiting who can receive them. The change came about after the commission voted affirmatively for the amendments yesterday.
FCC would also start considering a laundry list of proposals that include putting a spending limit on the program, limiting which providers can offer discounted service, as well as giving up federal approval of providers as well.
Lifeline programs used to offer $9.25 for phone or internet service every month to households near or below the poverty line. Households on Tribal lands are also eligible for an additional $25 discount. However, when FCC chairman Ajit Pai took over the post, he began halting the said program in February.
Pai thinks that the program is rife with wasted spending and it fails in encouraging service providers to reach homes that are still not connected. Pai also thinks that by limiting additional subsidies to rural areas, providers will be encouraged to build networks that cover those lands.
The change has been hit by some, however, for failing to properly consult with Tribes before going ahead with the program overhaul. FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn is claiming that the Tribes told them that losing enhanced Lifeline support “would be devastating.”
There are also more changes in the offing. FCC also permitted a proposal to consider limiting Lifeline subsidies to providers that own and operate their own networks such that MVNOs will not be able to offer a discount. Clyburn is also claiming that the implication of this is that “over 70 percent of wireless Lifeline consumers will be told they cannot use their preferred carrier and preferred plan.”
Republican commissioners for their part believe that said changes are meant to reduce waste and abuse in the system.