Low income subsidies for broadband service pushed by FCC

20 June 2015 by Steve Blum
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What would Ronald Reagan do?

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 along party lines on Friday to begin work on a plan to extend lifeline benefits – telephone bill subsidies for low income people – to broadband service. We don’t exactly what they did, because the actual text of the decision won’t be available until commission staff get around to publishing it, but we do know that Ronald Reagan would have either loved or hated it.

FCC chairman, and democrat, Tom Wheeler gave Reagan credit for creating the program in the first place…

The Lifeline program was established by the Reagan Administration’s FCC in 1985 to help low-income Americans afford access to vital communications. Over a span of three decades, the program has helped tens of millions of Americans afford basic phone service. But as communications technologies and markets evolve, the Lifeline program also has to evolve to remain relevant.

Commissioner, and republican, Ajit Pai was quick to put some distance between today’s FCC and the Gipper

Ronald Reagan once said: “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” That is an apt analogy for today’s Lifeline program. To be sure, Lifeline was established in 1985 during the Reagan Administration in order to help make telephone service more affordable for low-income Americans. But that Lifeline program was vastly different than the one we have now. To equate the two is like saying that The Godfather: Part II is the same as Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 because both are movie sequels.

Questions posed by the FCC’s preliminary document include whether or not a telephone company that receives lifeline subsidies should be required to also offer broadband, and whether “minimum service standards for both voice and broadband service” should be established.