ALA applauds Lifeline program modernization to include broadband

For Immediate Release
Thu, 03/31/2016


Jazzy Wright

Press Officer

Washington Office

American Library Association


The Federal Communications Commission voted today to update the Lifeline program to include broadband. Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings. The American Library Association has been a strong advocate for modernization of all Universal Service Fund programs to include affordable access to high-capacity broadband.

"Broadband is essential to full participation in today’s digital age, and the American Library Association (ALA) commends the Commission for including broadband support as part of a modernized Lifeline program," said ALA President Sari Feldman. "With affordable, high-quality broadband access at the library, at school, and now within reach for millions more people at home, the Commission continues to fulfill its universal service mission. America’s libraries look forward to extending our digital services and training to advance individual opportunity and community progress."

The Commission also made several other important program improvements, including:

• providing options for low-income subscribers, including standalone fixed and mobile broadband, as well as bundled services;
• setting minimum standards for broadband and telephone offerings to ensure robust service;
• simplifies eligibility procedures for broadband providers and establishes a third-party National Eligibility Verifier to improve program flexibility and reduce burden;
• builds on 2012 reforms to increase transparency and accountability;
• establishes a $2.25 billion annual budget for the program to support added participation and financial stability;
• and directs the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau to develop a digital inclusion plan that addresses broadband adoption issues.

"Access to affordable broadband can help overcome geographic distances, close the ‘homework gap’ and minimize economic disparities," Feldman added. "Connecting people to information, educational, and economic opportunity is one of the most significant policy goals today. Librarians also know that there are additional barriers to broadband adoption that we must continue to address in communities nationwide—including  education and outreach about low-cost broadband options, digital literacy training and access to relevant and diverse digital content. Today’s vote is one critically important step toward digital inclusion, but there is more work ahead."