Lifeline is currently the only government subsidy34 providing financial support of internet access for low-income households. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Reagan administration, created the Lifeline Assistance Program in 1985. It was first established as a mechanism to provide modest subsidies to low-income families for telephone services. The Lifeline program was expanded to include cell phone service under George W. Bush’s Administration. The program adapted to technological needs again in 2016, under the Obama Administration, by expanding Lifeline services to both fixed and wireless broadband.
Subscribers of a Lifeline service include some of society’s most vulnerable populations including veterans, the elderly, families with school-aged children, people of color, people with disabilities and domestic abuse survivors.
Unfortunately, under the Trump administration, Lifeline has been weakened. In November 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a series of changes that would reduce the impact of the Lifeline program, effectively leaving millions of low-income households without access to 21st Century communications35. The Commission expects to vote on these changes in the remaining months of 2018.
Because broadband is expensive and Lifeline is the only federal support for low-income households, discount internet offers are an incredibly valuable resource.
- Federal Communications Commission. (September 8, 2017). Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications. Retrived from: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/lifeline-support-affordable-communications (Back to text)
- Federal Communications Commission. (October 26, 2017). Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers: Fourth Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Notice of Inquiry. Retrieved from: https://www.fcc.gov/document/bridging-digital-divide-low-income-consumers (Back to text)