Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the first step forward in modernizing the Lifeline program, which supports telephone service for low-income Americans. In response, American Library Association (ALA) President Courtney Young released the following statement:
"The American Library Association strongly supports the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to update the Lifeline program for the 21st Century, as it did with the E-rate program last year. Librarians know well that broadband access is essential to connecting people with educational and economic opportunity, as well as enabling full civic participation.
"Cost is a significant barrier to home broadband service, as we can see in the disparity between the 92% or greater of households with incomes of $100,000 or more compared to 47% for households with income below $25,000. An updated Lifeline program for broadband can help close this gap, and there is no time to waste.
"As we urged in a joint letter with more than 60 other public interest and civil rights groups last week, the ALA believes the following principles (pdf) are essential to ensuring a quality Lifeline program:
- Universality. The program must provide sufficient resources and be designed to ensure all eligible households receive the support needed to afford high-quality broadband services.
- Excellence. As Commissioner Clyburn has noted, we need a Lifeline program for broadband that delivers maximum “bang for our buck.” Substandard services are not worthy of federal support.
- Choice and competition. A strength of the current program is that it leverages marketplace competition; the Commission should maintain this feature as it upgrades Lifeline for broadband. A portable Lifeline benefit will encourage companies to improve offerings to compete for Lifeline customers.
- Innovation. The Commission should structure the Lifeline for broadband program to support continuous innovation to improve program design and efficient operations.
- Efficiency, transparency, accountability. The Commission has already made considerable progress in reforming the Lifeline program to conform to the highest ethical standards. The Commission must continue its vigilance to protect consumers’ pocketbooks and their privacy.
"ALA and libraries look forward to participating in the forthcoming public comment period and continuing to actively advance broadband access, adoption and use for all in communities across the country."
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 55,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the ALA is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.