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Released: July 28, 2014
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FCC CAC Recommendation Regarding

FCC Interagency Coordination To Promote/Facilitate Communications Access

WHEREAS, broadband, as described in the National Broadband Plan, “is transforming the

landscape of America more rapidly and more pervasively than earlier infrastructure networks”1;

and

WHEREAS, affordability and relevance have been identified as barriers to broadband adoption2;

and

WHEREAS, in 1934 Congress tasked the Commission to “make available, so far as possible, to all

the people of the United States . . . a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and

radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges”3; and

WHEREAS, in 1996 Congress set forth universal service principles including that “consumers in

all regions of the nation, including low-income consumers, . . .should have access to

telecommunications and information services”4; and

WHEREAS, in meeting the national universal service goals, the Commission oversees four (4)

universal service programs, including the federal Lifeline assistance program and the Schools

and Libraries program (E-rate); and

WHEREAS, the federal Lifeline program is currently designed to help low-income consumers

afford essential telecommunication service by subsidizing $9.25 off the monthly cost of voice

service; and

WHEREAS, low-income consumers are eligible for federal Lifeline assistance if they participate in

Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Supplemental Security Income;

Federal Public Housing Assistance; Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; National

School Lunch Program’s free and reduced meal program; Temporary Assistance for Needy

Families; and

WHEREAS, in addition to the standard Lifeline eligibility criteria, low-income consumers living on

tribal lands may also qualify for federal Lifeline assistance through participation in Bureau of

Indian Affairs general assistance; Tribally-administered TANF; Head start (via the income-

qualifying standards) and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations; and

1 NBP at 3.

2 NBP at ch.9.

3 47 U.S.C. § 151.

4 47 U.S.C. § 254(b).

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WHEREAS, the Commission’s recent Lifeline reform order directs the Wireline Competition

Bureau and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) which administers the Lifeline

program for the Commission, to “take all necessary actions so that . . . there will be an

automated means to determine Lifeline eligibility for, at a minimum, the three most common

programs through which consumers qualify for Lifeline”5; and

WHEREAS, there is an ongoing Lifeline Broadband pilot to begin studying modifications to the

Lifeline program for the delivery of broadband service to low-income households6; and

WHEREAS, the Commission structured recent Lifeline reforms and processes such as the

National Lifeline Duplicates Accountability Database in a manner that is “sufficiently flexible to

adapt to reasonably foreseeable changes in the Lifeline rules so that additional functionality can

be added at minimal cost” such as checking for duplicative broadband support7; and

WHEREAS, federal benefits programs are increasingly relying on websites to provide consumers

with information about programs and provide web portals to apply for benefits8; and

WHEREAS, the dissemination of Lifeline eligibility to consumers applying for the low-income

federal assistance programs listed above, would help to increase participation in Lifeline while

helping to the federal benefits operate more efficiently due to the provision of a stable phone

number for their clients; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Consumer Advisory Committee recommends that the

Commission closely coordinate with federal departments, independent agencies and program

administrators that oversee direct low-income consumer assistance programs to align

Commission policies and programs which focus on helping low-income consumers and

communities with communications access.

Unanimously Adopted July 25, 2014

Respectfully submitted:

Debra R. Berlyn, Chairperson

FCC Consumer Advisory Committee

5 Lifeline Reform Order, FCC 12-11 at para 223.

6 Lifeline Broadband Pilot Order, FCC DA 12-2045 (Rel. Dec. 19, 2012).

7 Lifeline Reform Order, FCC 12-11 at para 222.

8 See e.g., the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website list of states that have online applications for

SNAP at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/apply.

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