Mobile lifeline fraud will only get worse

7 July 2016 by Steve Blum
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No carrier left behind.

An FCC commissioner wants Californian regulators, along with their counterparts in Oregon, Vermont and Texas, to answer questions about how eligibility for lifeline telephone service subsidies is managed. All four states have their own process for determining whether a subsidised lifeline customer meets income eligibility standards and verifying that any given household only receives one subsidy.

Republican commissioner Ajit Pai sent largely identical letters to the heads of the four public utilities commissions, including California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Picker, asking, among other things how they “determine whether the one-per-household rule is being enforced?”… More

Does FCC broadband lifeline program make the grade for homework?

30 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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3G gets an F for homework.

The Federal Communication Commission’s new broadband lifeline program is intended as a means of closing the digital divide between affluent and low income households in the U.S. There’s sufficient consensus around that goal that a bipartisan compromise was nearly worked out between commissioners. But in the end, the vote was 3 to 2 on strict party lines.

There are many points of disagreement between democrat and republican commissioners, but one that sticks out is whether the program standards – 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload for wireline (and fixed wireless) service and a vague “3G” reference for mobile service – will do any good.… More

Broadband lifeline program unjustly slow but has room to improve

28 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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You’ll have to wait and see what next year’s model looks like.

There’s good news and bad news in the full text of the Federal Communications Commission’s lifeline subsidy program for broadband service, which was released yesterday. The bad news is that previous summaries were correct about the low performance standards for subsidised broadband:

  • 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds for fixed service (wireline or wireless), except where existing networks can’t support that level.

Something about broadband is a laughing matter

2 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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The good stuff is no joke.

It was hard to tell which post on the Google Fiber blog yesterday was the April Fool’s joke, and which was the sober look at the world ahead. On the one hand, a Google engineer, Pál Takácsi, reflected on the need to boost broadband speeds by a billion times

While gigabit speeds are fast, we have come across an application where 1,000 Mbps is actually quite slow. Terribly slow.


Stormy FCC okays lifeline subsidies for broadband

1 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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The Federal Communications Commission approved a lifeline subsidy for broadband service yesterday with high drama and a party line vote. As is common practice at the FCC, no one knows what the program actually is, except commissioners and staff. And maybe not even them.

According to press reports, yesterday’s meeting was delayed for three hours while democrat Mignon Clyburn tried to negotiate a bipartisan agreement with the two republican commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly.… More

FCC lifeline plan puts mobile carriers' interests ahead of program goals

27 March 2016 by Steve Blum
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PC World’s 2012 test results, click for the full article.

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote later this week on a plan to transition its lifeline program from voice-only service to a combination of voice and broadband. The program gives a subsidy to service providers – $9.25 per month – so they can offer discounted packages to low income households.

The FCC won’t let the public know the details of the plan until after its been approved.… More

FCC broadband lifeline proposal is slow and slower

13 March 2016 by Steve Blum
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Low aspirations.

The broadband lifeline plan under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission would perpetuate the gap between people who have access to wireline broadband at home, and those who rely solely on mobile service. Floated last week by FCC chair Tom Wheeler, the new program would allow low income consumers to opt for subsidised broadband service, instead of or in addition to lifeline telephone service.

But it sets one standard for wireline (and fixed wireless) subscriptions, and another for mobile.… More

Should broadband lifeline subsidies minimise cost or maximise service?

26 October 2015 by Steve Blum
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Cost matters.

Frontier Communications told the Federal Communications Commission that setting minimum broadband speed requirements for lifeline programs aimed at low income people would be a barrier to greater broadband adoption. In a presentation published (per standard procedure) on the FCC’s website, the company’s in-house lobbyists told commission staff

Minimum service standards may be a good idea in some respects but must not prevent or limit consumer choice.
– The Commission asks about setting a minimum speed for fixed Internet services, such as 10 Mbps [download speed]/1 Mbps [upload speed].


CPUC endorses extending lifeline tax to broadband service

2 September 2015 by Steve Blum
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One of the ways that broadband service and infrastructure is subsidised is through universal service taxes paid by consumers on their telephone bills, both in California and at the federal level. Broadband itself, however, is not taxed in that way.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission decided that broadband is a telecommunications service that, to one extent or another, falls under common carrier rules and universal service obligations previously reserved for traditional telephone service. At the time, there was the usual partisan bickering over whether the FCC intended to use the new rules to extend universal service taxes to broadband.… More

Mobile operators take federal subsidies and subsidised customers for granted, for now

18 July 2015 by Steve Blum
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Innovative enough for lifeline subscribers.

The Federal Communications Commission runs a lifeline telephone program that provides subsidies to low income people in order to make sure they have access to at least a minimum level of telephone service. It’s more or less technology-neutral – wireless operators, and particularly re-sellers – have been enthusiastic participants. But as the FCC asks for comments on how its lifeline program should be changed, it notes that even as the mobile industry is constantly improving subscription offers and consumers are increasing use, the subsidised side of the business is stagnant…

It has been over three years since the Lifeline Reform Order, and the standard Lifeline market offering for prepaid wireless service has remained largely unchanged at 250 minutes at no cost to the recipient.